French/Grammar/Tenses/Imperfect subjunctive

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Usage of the Imperfect Subjunctive[edit]

The subjunctive imperfect is very rarely employed in French; generally it only appears in literature and is viewed as archaic. It can in all instances be replaced by the subjunctive present. The subjunctive imperfect is employed in any instance in which the subjunctive is required, provided the trigger verb is in a past tense. In the example "Il fallait que le garçon allât à l'école", the subjunctive trigger verb "falloir" is in the imperfect, thus "aller" has been conjugated in the subjunctive imperfect. French speakers would normally express this as "Il fallait que le garçon aille à l'école", where "aller" has been conjugated in the present subjunctive.

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 3rd person singular form of the simple past
  • For regular -ir verbs, regular -re verbs and irregular verbs, the imperfect subjunctive stem is the conjugation of the verb in the 3rd person singular form of the simple past with the final "t" removed.

Imperfect Subjunctive Endings[edit]

  • To conjugate the imperfect subjunctive, add the appropriate ending to the imperfect subjunctive stem.

Imperfect Subjunctive Endings

Subject

Ending

je

-sse

tu

-sses

il

-^t

nous

-ssions

vous

-ssiez

ils

-ssent

Irregular Conjugations[edit]

  • The verb venir is only irregular in the 3rd person singular.

Imperfect Subjunctive of Venir

Subject

Ending

je

vinsse

tu

vinsses

il

vînt

nous

vinssions

vous

vinssiez

ils

vinssent