French/Grammar/Tenses/Imperfect subjunctive

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Usage of the Imperfect Subjunctive[edit]

The subjunctive imperfect is very rarely employed in French, it is not common to use it in literature. It can in all instances be replaced by the subjunctive present. The subjunctive imperfect may be employed in any instance in which the subjunctive is requires, so long as it is in the past. For example: "Il fallait que le garçon allât à l'école". Fallait (falloir) is followed by the subjunctive. The subjunctive imperfect however is not used by French speakers, it is viewed as archaic. The previously given example would usually be expressed by "Il fallait que le garçon aille à l'école".

Formation of the Imperfect Subjunctive[edit]

Imperfect Subjunctive Stems[edit]

  • For regular -er verbs, the imperfect subjunctive stem is the conjugation of the verb in the simple past for the il form.
  • For regular -ir verbs, regular -re verbs, and irregular verbs, the imperfect subjunctive stem is the conjugation of the verb in the simple past for the il form, after removing the final t in that conjugation.

Imperfect Subjunctive Endings[edit]

  • To conjugate in the imperfect subjunctive, add the appropriate ending to the imperfect subjunctive stem. There is one set of endings for irregular verbs whose past participles end in -u ("irregular endings"), and another set for all other verbs ("regular endings").

Imperfect Subjunctive Endings

Subject

Ending

je

-sse

tu

-sses

il

-^t

nous

-ssions

vous

-ssiez

ils

-ssent

Irregular Conjugations[edit]

  • The verb venir is irregular, but only in the il form.

Irregular Endings

Subject

Ending

je

vinsse

tu

vinsses

il

vînt

nous

vinssions

vous

vinssiez

ils

vinssent