L’imparfait (Imperfect Tense) of French Verbs

Paris, France

In this lesson, you'll learn about l’imparfait form of French verbs and how to use it to talk about events that happened in the past. You'll also learn some more common French verbs. Flashcards are included to help you learn how to conjugate French verbs in l’imparfait.

A conversation in French is included at the end of the lesson to help you practice you're French reading skills.


The two common tenses used in spoken French to talk about the past are the passé composé and l’imparfait (the imperfect tense). In this lesson, you'll learn about l’imparfait.

L’imparfait is used to describes states and actions that were ongoing or repeated in the past. It can correspond to various English verb forms, including the simple past tense ("I did," "I went"), "used to", "would", and the past progressive ("I was doing," "I was going").

L’imparfait is used in the following situations:

  1. to describe habitual actions or states of being that were happening in the past
  2. to describe actions or states that happened for an unspecified duration in the past
  3. to describe feelings, health, time, and weather in the past.

Regular verb conjugations for l’imparfait are shown in in the following table.

aimer (to love) finir (to finish) vendre (to sell)
je aimais finissais vendais
tu aimais finissais vendais
il / elle aimait finissait vendait
nous aimions finissions vendions
vous aimiez finissiez vendiez
ils/elles aimaient finissaient vendaient

The verb être is irregular in l’imparfait. It's conjugation is shown in in the following table.

être (to be
j' étais
tu étais
il / elle était
nous étions
vous étiez
ils/elles étaient


J’allais à la plage tous les vendredis. I used to go to the beach every Friday.
Sophie lisait un livre chaque soir avant de dormir. She would read a book every night before sleeping.
Il faisait nuit, et la lune brillait dans le ciel. It was nighttime, and the moon was shining in the sky.
Les oiseaux chantaient doucement au lever du soleil. The birds were singing softly at sunrise.
Ils travaillaient dans le jardin pendant des heures. They would work in the garden for hours.
Nous regardions le coucher de soleil quand nous avons entendu un crash. We were watching the sunset when we heard a crash.
Tu étudiais tous les soirs. You used to study every night.
Vous ne regardiez pas quand nous vous avons vu. You weren't looking when we saw you.



Here are some more very common French verbs.

perdre lose
oublier forget
obtenir obtain, get
recevoir receive
prendre take
apprendre learn
enseigner teach
laisser let, allow, leave
regarder look at
avoir besoin need
ouvrir open



Here are some flashcards to help you learn the French verbs included in this lesson.


Town Scene


Sarah voit Mary au centre-ville pendant qu'elle est en pause déjeuner. Ils s'arrêtent et parlent pendant quelques minutes.

Sarah: Je t'ai vu faire du vélo hier. Où allais-tu ?

Mary: J'allais à mon cours de communication d'entreprise. J'ai un cours tous les mardis et jeudis soir.

Sarah: Ça te plaît ?

Mary: J'avais des problèmes au début, mais je commence à en profiter maintenant. C'est le premier cours que j'ai suivi depuis des années, il m'a donc fallu un certain temps pour m'habituer à étudier à nouveau.

Sarah: Pourquoi tu prends ce cours ?

Mary: Je veux être chef de projet. Mon travail paie pour tous les cours que je dois suivre pour obtenir un certificat de gestion de projet.

Sarah: Ouah! C'est très ambitieux. Combien de cours dois-tu suivre ?

Mary: Je dois suivre dix cours. J'espérais finir dans deux ans, mais je pense que cela me prendra un peu plus de temps.

Sarah: Je suppose que tu es très occupé ces jours-ci.

Mary: Oui. J'ai cependant du temps libre samedi. Nous devrions aller prendre un café.

Sarah: Bien sûr. Quelle heure ?

Mary: Une heure à l’endroit habituel.

Sarah: À plus tard.

Mary: Au revoir.


Sarah sees Mary downtown while she is on her lunch break. They stop and talk for a few minutes.

Sarah: I saw you riding your bike yesterday. Where were you going?

Mary: I was going to my Business Communication class. I have a class every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

Sarah: How do you like it?

Mary: I was having trouble at first, but I’m starting to enjoy it now. This is the first course I’ve taken in years, so it took me a while to get used to studying again.

Sarah: Why are you taking the course?

Mary: I want to be a Project Manager. My work will pay for all the courses I need to take to get a Project Management Certificate.

Sarah: Wow! That’s very ambitious. How many courses do you have to take?

Mary: I have to complete ten courses. I was hoping to finish in two years, but I think it will take me a little bit longer.

Sarah: I guess you’re really busy these days.

Mary: Yeah. I have some free time on Saturday though. We should go for coffee.

Sarah: Sure. What time?

Mary: 1:00 at the usual place.

Sarah: See you then.

Mary: Bye.