Conjugate être in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

In L'Imparfait, almost all the verbs follow the same pattern of conjugation. See Conjugate regular verbs in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense).

However (as usual!), the verb être (to be) is slightly irregular.

Have a look:

J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans.
I was already married when I was 20.

Tu étais rayonnante pendant ta grossesse.
You were beaming during your pregnancy.

C'était le plus beau jour de ma vie.
It was the most beautiful day of my life.

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.
We were on holidays when they robbed us.

Vous étiez déjà amoureux à cette époque ?
Were you already in love at that time?

Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là.
They were best friends that year.

Note that the irregular stem ét- (and NOT êt-) is followed by the regular Imparfait endings: 

je / j' -ais
tu -ais
il/elle/on -ait
nous -ions
vous -iez
ils/elles -aient

 

Notice that L'imparfait is used in a variety of ways where we use very different tenses in English!

When to use the French Imperfect Tense (L'Imparfait)

Expressing continuing action in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense) 

Expressing habits or repeated actions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense) 

Describing and expressing opinions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.
We were on holidays when they robbed us.


C'était le plus beau jour de ma vie.
It was the most beautiful day of my life.


Tu étais rayonnante pendant ta grossesse.
You were beaming during your pregnancy.


Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là.
They were best friends that year.


J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans.
I was already married when I was 20.


Vous étiez déjà amoureux à cette époque ?
Were you already in love at that time?


Q&A Forum 8 questions, 13 answers

SamA1Kwiziq community member

ont or avons

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.

Would it not be " nous avons cambriolés'' here?

Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Sam,

If you say -

'Nous avons cambriolé' it is 'nous' , the subject who are the burglars

Literally -  We burgled

Whereas, in

'Ils nous ont cambriolés '= They (ils), the subject burgled us (nous), the object.

Hope this helps!

ont or avons

Nous étions en vacances lorsqu'ils nous ont cambriolés.

Would it not be " nous avons cambriolés'' here?

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Mary AnneC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Exercise: Emilie et toi ________ toujours polies. Emilie and you were always polite.

It seems to be that "Emilie et toi" = "vous," you plural => 2nd person plural verb.

But the right answer was a third person plural verb.

Asked 6 months ago
Mary AnneC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributorCorrect answer

Sorry, never mind. I wish I could delete this because I see that I misread the correction.

Exercise: Emilie et toi ________ toujours polies. Emilie and you were always polite.

It seems to be that "Emilie et toi" = "vous," you plural => 2nd person plural verb.

But the right answer was a third person plural verb.

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CaroleC1Kwiziq community member

Translation question

In a test the sentence "Nous étions toujours ensemble à cette époque." was translated as

We were still together at that time.  Does "toujours" mean "still?"  Or should the translation be We were always together at that time.  ?

Merci.

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Toujours can be "still" or "always".

Here is a useful lesson on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7arUdbwovo

Translation question

In a test the sentence "Nous étions toujours ensemble à cette époque." was translated as

We were still together at that time.  Does "toujours" mean "still?"  Or should the translation be We were always together at that time.  ?

Merci.

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KarenB1Kwiziq community member

Do adjectives still agree when you use 'c'etait'?

For example. If I were to say "Nous avons eu une tempete. C'etait effrayante." Would that be correct (apart from the missing accent on tempete which I can't get to work in this box!)
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Karen,

No, in the case of c'est (or c'était) you will always use the masculine form of the adjective  and this is a common error.

So, C'était effrayant! C'était petit.....

Hope this helps!

Do adjectives still agree when you use 'c'etait'?

For example. If I were to say "Nous avons eu une tempete. C'etait effrayante." Would that be correct (apart from the missing accent on tempete which I can't get to work in this box!)

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DaveB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

best/better?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Dave,

"Meilleurs amis" is a pretty fixed phrase meaning "best friends".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

DaveB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Sorry not sure where my question went.....Ils étaient meilleurs amis cette année-là. Is this not "They were better friends that year."?
DaveB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Ah okay, thanks Chris. :)

best/better?

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ReneB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Ces leçons

sont vraiment utiles ! Ici je peux réviser et aussi apprendre de nouvelles choses. C'est magnifique ! Merci à tous !
Asked 2 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Merci pour ces gentils mots,  Rene, de la part de toute l'équipe.
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Bonsoir Rene, I am unable to answer for the Team as I am but a subscriber, user of Kwiziq myself, mais votre sentiment est très gentil and je suis tout d'accord.

Ces leçons

sont vraiment utiles ! Ici je peux réviser et aussi apprendre de nouvelles choses. C'est magnifique ! Merci à tous !

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SherryC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

"J'étais mariée quand j'avais 20 ans."

"I was married when I was 20." Does that mean that during my 20s I was married and not that I got married when I was 20? Thanks!
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Sherry ! It does mean "I was married", but I agree it's a bit of a confusing sentence. I've decided to add already to make it clearer: "J'étais déjà mariée quand j'avais 20 ans." (I was already married when I was 20.) Bonne Année !
SherryC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci, Aurélie!

"J'étais mariée quand j'avais 20 ans."

"I was married when I was 20." Does that mean that during my 20s I was married and not that I got married when I was 20? Thanks!

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DoraidaC1Kwiziq community member

Dans la première question pourquoi ne peut être "Quand je suis petit", pourquoi le femenine "petite"

Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Doraida, I looked through this lesson and kwiz, but I don't see "petite" anywhere. Do you remember which lesson you saw this on?
DoraidaC1Kwiziq community member
I'll try to find the page again and send it to you.

Dans la première question pourquoi ne peut être "Quand je suis petit", pourquoi le femenine "petite"

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