Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions, for example être starts differently (so you can't use nous sommes) but the endings are all the same. The stem for être is ét-:

  • j'étais - I was
  • tu étais - you were (informal)
  • il/elle/on était - he/she/we were
  • nous étions - we were
  • vous étiez - you were (formal, plural)
  • ils/elles étaient - they were

Note that the endings for the imperfect tense are always the same.

Verbs like manger add an extra -e before -a, -o, -u. You take it from nous mangeons and it becomes:

  • je mangeais
  • tu mangeais
  • il/elle/on mangeait
  • nous mangions
  • vous mangiez
  • ils/elles mangeaient
Remember that the -e is removed in the nous and vous forms

With verbs like commencer, the last -c becomes before -a, -o, -u. Nous commençons - BUT NOT in the nous and vous forms:

  • je commençais
  • tu commençais
  • il/elle/on commençait
  • nous commencions
  • vous commenciez
  • ils/elles commençaient