Mastering the Art of French Imparfait Tense: A Guide to Conjugation


Bienvenue! Today, we delve into a crucial aspect of the French language: the imparfait tense. Considered as one of the key past tenses, imparfait allows us to express ongoing actions, habits, and descriptions in the past. Let’s explore this beautifully nuanced tense, dive into its various conjugations, and understand how to use it to elevate our French language skills.

Understanding the Imparfait Tense:

The imparfait tense represents an ongoing action or state of being in the past. It is commonly used to describe habitual actions, background details, or atmospheric conditions. By using imparfait, we can create a vivid context, setting, or atmosphere within a narrative, providing depth to our storytelling.

Conjugating Regular Verbs in Imparfait:

To conjugate regular verbs in the imparfait tense, we take the first-person singular (je) form of the present tense and replace the endings. For -er verbs, we simply add the endings -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient. For -ir and -re verbs, we remove the final -r before adding the same endings.

For example:

  1. Parler (to speak): je parlais, tu parlais, il/elle/on parlait, nous parlions, vous parliez, ils/elles parlaient.
  2. Finir (to finish): je finissais, tu finissais, il/elle/on finissait, nous finissions, vous finissiez, ils/elles finissaient.

Irregular Verbs in Imparfait:

As with most grammatical structures, a handful of common verbs have irregular conjugations in imparfait. The most common ones include être (to be), avoir (to have), and faire (to do/make). Here are their conjugations in imparfait:

  • Être: j’étais, tu étais, il/elle/on était, nous étions, vous étiez, ils/elles étaient.
  • Avoir: j’avais, tu avais, il/elle/on avait, nous avions, vous aviez, ils/elles avaient.
  • Faire: je faisais, tu faisais, il/elle/on faisait, nous faisions, vous faisiez, ils/elles faisaient.

Utilizing Imparfait in Context:

Now that we understand the conjugation of imparfait, let’s explore some common scenarios where this tense shines:

  • Setting the scene: Nous marchions dans la rue principale lorsque la pluie a commencé à tomber. (We were walking down the main street when it started to rain.)
  • Describing ongoing actions: Pendant que mon amie étudiait, j’écoutais de la musique. (While my friend was studying, I was listening to music.)
  • Frequently used phrases: Quand j’étais petit(e), je passais mes vacances à la montagne. (When I was a child, I used to spend my vacations in the mountains.)


As we wrap up our exploration of the imparfait tense, consider this newfound knowledge as a powerful tool to enhance your French language skills. By mastering the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in imparfait, you will have the ability to create vivid narratives, describe past habits, and establish atmospheric contexts. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to use imparfait in your daily conversations and written work. Bonne chance! (Good luck!)

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