In French grammar imparfait refers to a past tense of verbs. It is a notion that you will often find when reading French books, particularly novels, so it is quite important that you master it as much as possible. But don't worry, it's not that complicated :-)
Constructing sentences in French even in simple conversation takes some time to learn especially if you are not a native speaker of the language. It will really be difficult on the part of non-French speakers to study this rich language in their own way and understanding.
One of the difficult topics in grammar in French is imparfait or the continuous past. It places emphasis on the progression of an action that is in the past verb form. The imparfait also indicates a regular repeated or a habitual action.
French grammar imparfait has many uses in a sentence. In most cases, it is used as a descriptive word to describe a situation or event in the past. At times, an imparfait can be used to describe not only a circumstance but also a person, an explanation or a property depending how the user will express it in a sentence. Sometimes, imparfait is utilized to denote a habitual past action as well as a simultaneously recurring action happened in the past. Native French speakers would often use it to emphasize an action that just happened for a while meaning that the action has just lasted earlier in the past.
The imparfait is just one of the many several tenses in the past form in French wherein its usage is not limited to describing a past action whether habitual or recurring. French grammar imparfait can also be used in idiomatic expressions.
The following are standard form of imparfait in its present tense form.
· Nous Parlons – parler in a verb form – parl- as the imparfait stem
· Nous Finissons – finir in verb form – finiss- (imparfait stem)
· Nous descendons – descendre in verb - descend- as the imparfait stem
· Nous faisons – faire in a verb form – fais- in imparfait
French imparfait does not stand alone. It has several extensions or endings that once put in a verb might change its meaning. You will have to add these endings such as –ais, -ions, -iez and -aient to the imparfait stem. You must keep in mind that the –ais, -aient and –ait are pronounced similarly thus you don’t have to be confused in pronouncing them once you are using them in a normal conversation. Other imparfait stems are pren-, part- and et-. You will have to follow the rules on how you will have to use the extensions and the stems in present and past form.
In some cases, stem changing verbs happen such as with commencer and voyager. What you will do to maintain the soft sound of ‘g’ or ‘s’ is to add either an ‘e’ or ‘c’ prior to the imparfait endings. You are allowed to do it to all other present tense verbs except for those that have vous and nous like vous voyagiez and nous voyagions. In the case of prenominal verbs, you have nothing to worry because they maintain a regular form by just adding a reflexive pronoun. LearningFrench grammar imparfait
can be complex but little by little, you will be able to perfect it.
Source : Imperfect French tense on Wikipedia
Born in Paris where he has spent more than 30 years, Yannick is a French native speaker now based in Ireland. His interest in learning foreign languages comes from his Italian grand-father, his Spanish wife and his Japanese sister-in-law. Teaching French has been a passion since his early twenties when he spent countless hours exchanging with international students.