The imperfect tense

The imperfect tense

Learning Objectives 

  • Know when to use the imperfect
  • Be able to conjugate verbs in the indicative imperfect
  • Be able to talk about memories
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Key Words & Phrases

  • Quand j’étais petit(e)
  • Je pensais que + clause in indicative imperfect
  • Je croyais que + clause in indicative imperfect
  • J’avais peur du/de la/de l’/des + noun
  • Je savais / je ne savais pas que + clause in indicative imperfect


the imperfect

the imperfect

the imperfect

Grammar Collins Dictionary: the imperfect

Lawless French: the imperfect

Lingolia: the imperfect


Learn French with Vincent: the imperfect

Learn French with Alexa: “être” in the imperfect

Learn French with Alexa: “avoir” in the imperfect

DamonAndJo: the imperfect


BBC Bitesize: the imperfect

LingVist: the imperfect


Learn French with Alexa: practice imperfect with regular -er verbs

Learn French with Alexa: practice imperfect with irregular verbs

Lingolia: practice the imperfect

Conjuguemos: practice the imperfect

Using one of the recommended resources to get writing feedback, respond to the prompt below. 

  • Your pen pal Antoine knows you are learning the imperfect. He wrote a story about his childhood and spinach (!). In your answer, try to write a few sentences about some of your memories, using the imperfect and starting with “quand j’étais petit(e)”.

Salut !

Aujourd’hui, je vais te raconter une histoire d’enfance.

Quand j’étais petit, je détestais les légumes. Mes parents voulaient absolument que je mange des légumes. Ils disaient qu’il fallait manger des légumes pour grandir. Un soir, mes parents ont cuisiné des épinards. Je n’aimais vraiment pas les épinards, je ne voulais pas en manger. Mes parents n’étaient pas contents. Ils ont dit que je ne pouvais pas manger de dessert si je ne finissais pas les épinards. Je préférais ne pas manger de dessert ! 

Le lendemain matin, au petit-déjeuner, il y avait des épinards… Mes parents ont dit que je ne pouvais pas manger de céréales si je ne mangeais pas de légumes verts. J’ai dû manger les épinards. Maintenant que je suis adulte, je déteste toujours les épinards et je n’en mange jamais !

J’espère que toi, tu n’es pas traumatisé par les épinards !

A bientôt,


Using one of the platforms for finding a tutor or language exchange partner, practice the speaking activities below. 

Partner Speaking Exercise:

  • Compare your habits/activities in the past with your French partner, talking about your own routine and asking about theirs.

Example: “Quand j’étais petit(e), j’avais un lapin qui s’appelait Panpan. Et toi, est-ce que tu avais des animaux de compagnie quand tu étais jeune ?”

Independent Speaking Exercise:

  • Make sentences about what you believed was real, or fake and misunderstandings you had when you were young, using the imperfect.

For inspiration, you can watch this video from a French YouTuber, talking about what he thought was real, and his (mis)understanding of certain French words when he was young – using the imperfect. There are French and English subtitles available. Please note this video is not aimed at French learners and features slang/rude words.

You can find instructions and a download link in our flashcards module

Lesson Content
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