When to use the Imparfait: the Ultimate Guide in 2020

when to use the imparfait

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In this French grammar lesson we will learn about when to use the imparfait.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the imparfait
  • how the imparfait is used in sentences
  • how you can immediately test your knowledge on when to use the imparfait
  • how you can download the Anki files for when to use the imparfait

Please refer to the French A2 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar if you are curious about how when to use the imparfait fits in French A2 grammar.

Please also read how to form the imparfait to find out how you can form it.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use the imparfait.

Table of Contents

When to use the Imparfait

There are 4 cases when you would use the passé composé

  1. Expressing an ongoing action
  2. Describing someone or something
  3. Giving an opinion
  4. Expressing repeated actions or habits

We will handle all of them, and give examples for all of them.

Expressing an ongoing action

In this case you are describing an ongoing action, without a clear beginning or end.

Vous parliez de technologie hier soir.

You were talking about technology yesterday evening.

Yesterday evening you started talking about technology.

It is not clear when you began talking about it, neither when you finished.

This was an ongoing action.

In other words, we are describing an ongoing action, with no clear beginning or ending.

Describing something or someone

In this case you can use the Imparfait to provide a description of something or someone.

La maison était magnifique et avait une grande porte bleue.

The house was beautiful and had a big blue door.

Quand j’avais 12 ans, j’avais les cheveux bruns et des lunettes noires.

When I was 12, I had brown hair and black glasses.

The Imparfait is used in the examples to provide a description.

In the first example a house and a door are described.

In the second example a person is describing how he looked when he was 12.

Thus we are providing a description of something or someone, or an opinion.

Giving an opinion

In this case you are using the imparfait to give an opion.

Le match de football était génial !

The football match was great!

In this example someone is giving his/her opinion on a football match.

This person thought that the match was great.

Thus, we are giving an opinion.

Expressing repeated actions or habits

In this case you are describing repeated actions or habits.

Chaque été, nous allions à la plage et jouions au volley-ball.

Every summer, we would go to the beach and play volleyball.

Je lisais tous les jours pendant 30 minutes

I used to read every day for 30 minutes

In the first sentence, we are describing a repeated action. Every summer this person would go to the beach and play volleyball. This is an action that repeats itself every summer.

In the second sentence, a person had a habit of reading every day for 30 minutes. This is a past habit.

So, we are describing a repeated action or habit.

Example Sentences with the Imparfait

The final section of this lesson on when to use the imparfait is about seeing imparfait in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the imparfait through examples.

Vous parliez de technologie hier soir.

You were talking about technology yesterday evening.

La maison était magnifique et avait une grande porte bleue.

The house was beautiful and had a big blue door.

Quand j’avais 12 ans, j’avais les cheveux bruns et des lunettes noires.

When I was 12, I had brown hair and black glasses.

Le match de football était génial !

The football match was great!

Chaque été, nous allions à la plage et jouions au volley-ball.

Every summer, we would go to the beach and play volleyball.

Je lisais tous les jours pendant 30 minutes.

I used to read every day for 30 minutes.

Test Your Knowledge on when to use the Imparfait

It’s not enough just to read the lesson on this subject.

You should test your knowledge to see if you really understood everything, and to be able to repeat the material.

It is also for this reason that it is recommended to download the Anki Decks and do them.

At the end of every lesson you can do a small test.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter. It is up to you to give the correct answer.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the test as many times as you want. There’s no limit to it!

Anki File for when to use the Imparfait

It is important to do the Anki excercises for this lesson, so that you can remember what you just studied.

By downloading the Anki File for French A2 you can practice every French A2 lesson that is on Language Atlas.

At this moment the Anki File for this lesson doesn’t exist yet. However, in due time this will be available on Language Atlas.

If you don’t know why you should use Anki, or don’t know how to use Anki or merge Anki files please click here.

Anki can be downloaded from here.

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