Unité 5 : Imperfect, Asking Questions







Formation of the imperfect

In order to form the ‘Imparfait’, you need to know the ‘nous’ form of the present. You then drop the ‘ons’ and add the following endings: 

-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions,-iez, -aient.

Take the verb ‘finir’ for example – Nous finissons. With the stem ‘finiss’, you then conjugate in the following manner:

Je finissais
Tu finissais
Il / Elle /On finissait
Nous finissions
Vous finissiez
Ils / Elles finissaient

Note the verb ‘être’ is irregular: ‘J’étais………..Nous étions…..Ils étaient…

Some verbs are slightly irregular. For example, the verb voyager – nous voyageons (‘e’ used to soften the sound). Hence, Je voyageais, but nous voyagions (‘e’ is dropped), vous voyagiez, ils voyageaient




Use of the Imperfect

The imperfect is used to describe unfinished (‘was doing’) or repeated/habitual (underlined idea of ‘used to do’) actions in the past.

Example, when Didier tells the secretary, he was just going to make himself comfortable

  • J’allais juste m’installer tranquillement…

It is also used for describing feelings, weather, emotions, when it is not specified when exactly these happened. Typically the verbs ‘avoir’, ‘être’, ‘sentir’, ‘sembler’, ‘vouloir’,‘pouvoir’, ‘savoir’, ‘croire’ and ‘penser’ fall into this category, but there are also others too numerous to mention.

Example, when Didier expresses his surprise at recognising the town hall’s secretary on the beach.

  • Je n’imaginais pas vous retrouver ici !

Before you check the next Unit for the difference between the passé composé and the imperfect, try out this game to practice the imperfect conjugation, based on chapter 5 of Didier’s story.



Asking Questions

More good news: to ask a question in French, you have three simple options.

  1. You can keep your sentence as it is, and raise your tone at the end.
  2. You can invert the subject-verb order.
  3. You can begin the sentence with ‘EST-CE QUE’ (‘Is it that…’)

It is interesting to note that inversion of the verb is the most formal of the three.


  • Ils vendent leur appartement?
  • Vendent-ils leur appartement?
  • Est-ce qu’ils vendent leur appartement?
  • Elle rentre avant minuit?
  • Est-ce qu’elle rentre avant minuit?
  • Rentre-t-elle avant minuit? (‘t’ inserted to avoid two vowels coming immediately after one another.)

In chapter 5 of the story (second paragraph), several questions are asked. Two start with ‘Est-ce que’ and one is based on the inversion of the subject and verb:

  • Est-ce qu’il a amené son maillot de bain ? (passé composé)
  • Est-ce qu’il va y avoir beaucoup de gens ? (near future)
  • Faudra-t-il qu’il mette de la crème ? (future of ‘falloir’)

Why not try this game?



Interrogative adjectives

There are numerous ways of asking ‘what’ in French.

One can go for ‘Qu’est-ce que’ or ‘que’ with a verb:

  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais ?
  • Que fais-tu ? (Note the inversion with ‘que’).

When describing nouns, however, you use the correct form of ‘quel’. Quel and its variations are Interrogative Adjectives.

Example (paragraph 2 in chapter 5)

  • Et quel maillot de bain a-t-il emporté ? 

Quel has to agree with the noun that follows

  Masculine Feminine
Singular quel quelle
Plural quels quelles
  • Quel livre as-tu lu ? – What book (masculine singular) did you read ?
  • Quelle route devons-nous suivre ? – What road (feminine singular) do we need to follow ?
  • Quels amis viennent ? – What friends (masculine plural) are coming?
  • Quelles fenêtres a-t-elle achetées ? – What windows (feminine plural) did she buy ?

To express admiration or wonder, you can also use the required form of ‘quel’.

  • Quelle victoire ! – What a victory!
  • Quel homme! – What a man!


Now take this short test on this unit!