French Language Blog

L’imparfait… rhymes with DMCV! Posted by on Nov 6, 2010 in Grammar, Music, Vocabulary

Dieu merci, c’est vendredi! “Thank God it’s Friday”

Let’s start with l’imparfait, and see what we can do about DMCV.

II. L’imparfait

L’imparfait is used for an ongoing state of being (e.g., being young: “When I was young…”) or a repeated or incomplete action. It’s used for actions that did not end at a specific point, or conditions which lasted a long time.

When to use l’imparfait:

  1. Habitual actions or states of being:


Exemple: Quand j’étais célibataire, je n’avais jamais ces problèmes! (“When I was single, I never had these problems!” since being single is an ongoing state of being, or sometimes a habit).

  1. Physical and emotional descriptions (time, age, weather, emotions)

Exemple: Il faisait très beau ce week-end (“It [the weather] was beautiful this weekend”) since weather doesn’t have a finite end point and is an ongoing condition.

Exemple bis: J’avais 15 ans quand j’ai commencé à étudier le français (“I was 15 when I started studying French”)

  1. Actions or states of being of unspecified duration:

Exemple: Il regardait le tableau (“He looked at the painting”)

  1. Background information preceding le passé composé:

Exemple: J’avais 15 ans quand j’ai commencé à étudier le français (“I was 15 when I started studying French”). The first verbj’avais is imparfait, but the precise action (“j’ai commencé…”, I started, which is an identifiable moment of action) is passé composé.

  1. Expressions withsi”:

Exemple: Si j’avais de l’argent, je sortirais (“If I had money, I’d go out”)—the “if…” means imparfait.

Exemple bis: Et si on mangeait les champignons? (“What if we ate the mushrooms?”)—again, the “if” (“si”) indicates imparfait.

It might be hard to know when to use it, but l’imparfait is more straightforward to use than le passé composé. For one thing, you don’t need to worry about gender agreement (unlike passé composé). The best way to learn the difference is just to use them a lot!

So phew, terminée la grammaire! Alors…

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