Forming the imperfect tense

There are three steps to form the imperfect tense of all verbs:

  1. Take the nous form of the present tense, eg: for avoirnous avons
  2. Then drop the nous and the -ons from the end, so that we are left with the stem, eg: av
  3. Finally choose the appropriate subject pronoun (ie the person you are talking about) and add the imperfect endings from the table below:
EnglishSubject pronounMain verb stem, eg: avoirImperfect endings
Ij'avais
you (informal)tuavais
he/she/it (we)il/elle/onavait
wenousavions
you (formal, plural)vousaviez
theyils/ellesavaient

Here's another example – we want to say "I was watching/I used to watch TV" (regarder = to watch):

  1. Take the nous part of the present tense of regardernous regardons
  2. Remove the ons and remove nousregard (the stem)
  3. Choose a subject pronoun, eg: je regard and add the correct ending from the table below to the stem, eg: je regard + aisje regardais la télévision
Subject pronounEnding for the imperfect
je - Iais
tu - you (informal)ais
il/elle/on - he/she/it (we)ait
nous - weions
vous - you (formal, plural)iez
ils/elles - theyaient