What Is The Value of Imparfait In French?

French conjugation and tenses might be tricky. But once you know how to conjugate a tense the good thing is you can use it not only to express the tense itself but for a lot of ideas. That is so useful to know and I will tell you here the different values of Imparfait tense in French. Let’s first review how to conjugate the Imparfait in French.


French Imparfait French is a very regular verb. Take the verb stem from the first person plural of present (nous) and add the endings -ais, – ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient

Only one verb is irregular: être. It is made from the stem of second person plural of present (vous) partir du radical de la deuxième personne du pluriel du présent de l’indicatif.

Values of Imparfait in French

Imparfait expresses a continuous time, an indefinite duration, where the beginning or the end of the action is not mentioned except by the context.

It is used to:

  • describe the “present” of a past age (Au Moyen-Âge, les femmes qui travaillaient avaient plus de liberté qu’on ne le pense.)
  • set the scene in which events or actions will occur (Le bar était plein, tout le monde fumait, buvaient, riaient. Tout à coup, la porte s’ouvrit brusquement et trois hommes, revolver au poing, firent irruption.)
    or comment these actions or events (Le voyage a été épouvantable: il y avait des embouteillages, il neigeait et les enfants étaient insupportables.)
  • express repetition in the past (chaque matin, il allait faire son marché)
  • emphasize a specific fact, one-time fact, highlight a fact (À la 88ème minute, le milieu de terrain marquait un but magnifique!)
  • express a possible hypothesis (s’il faisait beau demain, on irait pique-niquer)
  • express unreal idea in present tense (si j’étais toi, j’accepterais sa proposition)
  • express a wish (Ah! si tu m’aimais!)
  • express a regret (Si j’étais plus jeune)
  • express a suggestion (Et si on se mettait au travail?)
  • express an eventuality (Et si cette histoire était vraie?)
  • express a polite request, indirect request (Pardon Monsieur, je voulais vous demander…)
  • mention a fact that didn’t occurred but almost occurred (une minute de plus et je manquais mon train)

I hope this will help you to use the Imparfait tense in different situations!

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