Verbs – Past Imperfect Lessons 1 and 2

Study Tip – When using verb conjugations, you may find that talking with your hands, like Italians, is a good way to add the memory power of motion. When you talk about the future, and conjugate the future, push your hands forward in whichever gesture you feel comfortable with. The present will have it’s own gesture. The past imperfect will have one that is slightly different than the past perfect, and so on. Work on those gestures and agree on them now, so that as you introduce new verb conjugations, you will couple them with body movements that will become synonymous with that conjugation.

The Imperfect (Imparfait) is what was happening all around you (including you), and the background. Also on-going events, habits, and what used to be. I’m going to give you a visual mnemonic to help you remember this verb tense and how to conjugate it…forever:

Imperfect (imparfait) – She was eating a parfait, it is imperfect, how I-ronic.


For an American, a parfait is something they sell at McDonald’s, and it contains yogurt or ice cream, and is adorned with nuts, syrup, etc. What could be more perfect? The irony is that as “she” was eating one, it is imperfect, and therefore ironic. The mnemonic attempts to reveal the conjugation trickery of the Imperfect tense. Through the use of colors, the strange “a” that appears in je, tu, il and ils is shown. The “is” and “it” are revealed in the je, tu, and il conjugations, and finally, the word I-ronic reminds the conjugator, to make sure they slip an “i” into each conjugation.


Faisiez – did/made (they)
Allait – went (you fam.)
Disaient – says (they)
Veniez – came (they)
Voulaient – wanted (they)
Avais – had (I)
Pensiez – thought (they)
Connaissais – knew (I/you fam.)
Croyait – believed (he/she)
Parlais – spoke (I/you fam.)
Regardiez – looked for (they)


The imperfect describes an ongoing action with no specified completion:

J’allais en France. – I was going to France.
Je visitais des monuments et prenais des photos. – I was visiting monuments and taking pictures

The imperfect is used for habitual or repeated actions, something that happened an uncounted number of times:

Je voyageais en France tous les ans. – I traveled (used to travel) to France every year.
Je visitais souvent le Louvre. – I often visited the Louvre.

The imperfect describes a general physical or mental state of being:

J’avais peur des chiens. – I was afraid of dogs.
J’aimais les épinards. – I used to like spinach.

Past Imperfect
Verb Meaning Je Tu Il/elle Nous Vous Ils/ells
Aimer To like J’aimais Aimais Aimions Aimiez Aimiez Aimaient
Aller To go J’allais Allais Allait Allions Allies Allaient
Avoir To have J’avais Avais Avait Avions Aviez Avaient
Connaitre To know Connaissais Connaissais Connaissait Connaissions Connaissiez Connaissaient
Croire To believe Croyais Croyais Croyait Croyions Croyiez Croyaient
Dire To say Disais Disais Disait Disions Disiez Disaient
Étre To be J’Étais Étais Étair Étions Étiez Étaient
Faire To do/make Faisais Faisais Faisait Faisions Faisiez Faisaient
Parler To speak Parlais Parlais Parlait Parlions Parliez Parlaient
Partir To go Partais Partais Partait Partions Partiez Partaient
Penser To think Pensais Pensais Pensait Pensions Pensiez Pensaient
Regarder To look at Regardais Regardais Regardait Regardions Regardiez Regardaient
Sentir To smell Sentais Sentais Sentait Sentions Sentiez Sentaient
Trouver To find Trouvais Trouvais Trouvait Trouvions Trouviez Trouvaient
Venir To come Venais Venais Venait Venions Veniez Venaient
Voir To see Voyais Voyais Voyait Voyions Voyiez Voyaient
Vouloir To want Voulais Voulais Voulait Voulions Vouliez Voulaient

Normally the Past Imperfect descirbes actions that are on-going. A good example of this is the Past Imperfect, je mangeais, which means I was eating (on going action). The Passé Composé version, j’ai mangé, translates to the English equivalent Present Perfect of “I have eaten” and the action is completed.


Avant, vous veniez chez mes parents – Earlier, you came to my parents’
Comment était ta journée? How was your day?
Du moins, il croyait! At least, he believed!
Elle allait lire un magazine – She went to read a magazine
Elle ne me regardait pas – She was not looking at me
Elle savait lire – She knew how to read
Elle venait seule – She came alone
Elles ne voulaient plus écrire – They did not want to write any more
Hier j’étais malade – Yesterday I was sick
Il allait acheter une voiture – He was going to buy a car
Il allait parler – He was going to talk
Il croyait son père – He believed his father
Il disait quoi? What was he saying?
Il était à sa fenêtre hier – He was at her window yesterday
Il faisait beau – The weather was beautiful
Il n’allait pas le faire – He was not going to do it
Il ne faisait rien – He did not do anything
Il ne voulait pas manger – He did not want to eat
Il n’était pas chez lui It didn’t used to be in home/He was not in his house
Il pensait à moi – He thought about me
Il savait parler – He knew how to speak
Il se sentait bien – He felt fine
Il se sentait mal- He felt bad
Il sentait le chocolat – He smelled the chocolate
Il y avait un chat dans la voiture – There was a cat in the car
Ils allaient au café – They were going to the café
Ils avaient une lampe dans leurchambre – They had a lamp in their bedroom
Ils n’avaient rien à manger – They had nothing to eat
Ils ne voulaient jamais ma photo – They never wanted my picture
Ils ne voulaient pas ça – They did not want that/it
Ils/Elles ne voulaient plus écrire – They did not want to write any more
J’allais dans ce restaurant – I used to go to this restaurant
J’allais écrire une letter – I was going to write a letter
J’avais un petit robot quand j’étais petit – I had a little robot when I was young
J’avais une voiture – I had a car
Je crois ce qu’elles disaient – I believe what they said
Je n’ai pas voulu le faire / Je ne voulais pas le faire – I did not want to do it
Je n’avais pas le temps de prendre un petit-déjeuner – I had no time for breakfast
Je ne savais pas – I did not know
Je ne voulais pas l’acheter – I did not want to buy it
Je parlais à mon père – I was talking to my father
Je parlais de ça avec mes parents – I spoke about that with my parents / I was speaking with my parents about that
Je voulais cette voiture – I wanted that car
Je voulais de nouvelles chaussures – I wanted new shoes
Je voulais des chaussures rouges – I wanted red shoes
Je voyais souvent mon neveu – I used to see my nephew often
J’étais chez elle le mois dernier – I was at her house last month
Les femmes faisaient des frites – The woman made some fries
Les hommes faisaient des gateaux – Men made cakes
Ma sœur disait que tu es trop vieuxpour elle – My sister said you are too old for her
Nous disions? We were saying?
Nous ne trouvions plus son chapeau – We did not find his hat anymore
Où allaient-ils? Where did they go?
Où étaient-ils samedi soir? Where were they Saturday night?
Tu avais seulement à dire non – You only had to say no
Tu ne connaissais pas ça – You did not know that
Tu ne me trouvais pas – You did not find me
Tu parlais avec ma sœur – You spoke with my sister
Tu regardais la television – You were watching television
Vendredi je parlais avec leprofesseur de mon fils – Friday I spoke with the professor of my son
Vous aviez à manger? Did you have something to eat?
Vous étiez dans votre cave – You were in your cellar
Vous ne faisiez rien – You did nothing
Vous pensiez la même chose quemoi – You thought the same thing as me
Vous veniez me voir – You came to see me
Vous veniez souvent dans cerestaurant – You came to this restaurant often


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