Useful verbs in the imperfect tense

There are several verbs that you will use often to talk about what something was like (giving a description).

Être is a verb commonly used for the imperfect tense, for example:

  • j'étais - I was → j'étais fatigué - I was tired
  • nous étions heureux - we were happy

C'était (meaning it was) + an adjective can be used to give your opinion on something:

  • c'était fantastique ! - it was great!
  • c'était difficile - it was difficult
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Note that c'est is a useful set phrase in the present tense meaning 'it is'. Here it is used in its past form - c'était. C'/Ce are treated like il/elle/on when adding endings.

You'll often need to use avoir too:

  • j'avais - I used to have/I had → j'avais mal à la gorge - I had a sore throat
  • il y avait - there was → il y avait beaucoup de monde - it was packed/very busy
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Note that il y a is a useful set phrase for describing situations. It means there is/there are in the present tense. Here it is used in its past form - il y avait.

You may also use faire:

  • je faisais - I used to do
  • il faisait - it was (usually for the weather)

You will also use aller:

  • j'allais - I used to go