The French imperfect corresponds to the English form “was/were doing”. It is used, like the English form, to describe a continuous state in the past.
- Le soleil brillait et la mer était très calme.
- The sun was shining and the sea was very calm.
It is also used to record an action which “was happening” at the same time as another action, or when another action intervened.
- Nous prenions un café alors qu’on a frappé à la port.
- We were having a coffee when someone knocked on the door.
Since the imperfect conveys this idea of simultaneity, it is used after conjunctions such as comme, or pendant que (even where English uses the simple past).
- Comme il fermait le robinet il remarqua une fuite d’eau.
- As he turned off/was turning off the tap, he noticed water dripping.
A second use of the imperfect is to record repeated or habitual actions in the past. This corresponds to the English form “used to” (or “would”).
- Quand je faisais mes études, je me couchais assez tard.
- When I was studying, I used to/would go to bed quite late.
I hope you all have a great week!
A bientôt !