The imperfect tense
Watch this to unpack the Imperfect tense for Higher French (and why reading the instructions of a board game is important)
Have you ever tried to play a brand new board game with your friends or family, without bothering to read the instructions?
Did you have lots of pieces and not know what to do with them or where to put them?
Tricky, isn’t it?
Nobody knows what they are doing, and it ends up in chaos.
Grammar is a bit like a board game….it has rules and lots of component parts. In order to be successful, we need to follow the rules and put all the pieces in the correct places.
The rule I want to focus on for the next few minutes is one of the past tenses in French – the imperfect tense.
So let’s talk grammar...
This is Thinkfour
When do we use the imperfect tense?
It can be used in the following circumstances:
When there is an incomplete or interrupted action in the past
Like for example, I was going out when the phone rang.
Something that was done regularly or a habit in the past.
Such as, “I used to go to town every week” or, “everyday I went to the beach”.
Another use would be Describing someone or something in the past tense.
For example “The weather was warm and sunny”.
The imperfect tense is used when we want to say was or were in English, or something that happened on a regular basis in the past.
Watch out for trigger words such as : every day, usually, always, rarely
When we see these words or want to use was or were, then we know to use the IMPERFECT TENSE in French.
Now, let’s look at how we actually FORM the imperfect tense.
You need to take the nous form of the present tense of the verb you are wanting to use:
First of all we will look at ER verbs like
Travailler = to work
The Present tense with nous is nous travaillons
We remove the ‘ons’ and we are left with travaill (the stem)
Next we have IR verbs like
Finir = to finish
The Present tense with nous is nous finissons
Again, we remove the ‘ons’ and we are left with finiss (the stem)
And finally, RE verbs like
Vendre = to sell
The Present tense with nous is nous vendons
By removing the ‘ons’ and we are left with vend (the stem)
On to these stems we add our new imperfect tense endings which, again, as you can see from the screen, look this:
Il/Elle /on …........ait
Ils/ Elles ….....aient
I am going to show you the complete example of the verb JOUER to play
Tu jouais Il jouait
Ils/ Elles jouaient
Believe it or not, even verbs which are irregular in the present tense actually for once follow this rule.
So, as you can see, I am using AVOIR which is notoriously the bad boy.
The nous form is nous avons, therefore the stem is AV
However, there is only ONE exception. Can you think what it is ?
Yup , its ETRE, because the nous form does not end in ONS, it is SOMMES. So the stem of être is ét in the imperfect tense.
Like this example , j’étais.... I was
So, unlike a chaotic attempt to play the latest board game without reading the instructions, you can prove that you have control over language.
You can successfully apply this grammatical rule and allow yourself to put everything in the correct place when writing your directed writing essay in French.
This is one game you can definitely win.
This was Thinkfour, thank you for watching.