Imperfect Subjunctive - French Literary Tense

Imparfait du subjonctif

The French imperfect subjunctive (imparfait du subjonctif) is a literary verb form used in formal writing, such as literature, journalism, and history. Like all literary verb forms, you really only need to be able to recognize it, not use it.

The imperfect subjunctive is used in a subordinate clause when the main clause is in the past. Its non-literary equivalent is the present subjunctive.

   Il partit pour que nous eussions la salle à nous-mêmes.

   He left so that we'd have the room to ourselves.
   Equivalent: Il est parti pour que nous ayons la salle à nous-mêmes.

   Je voulais qu'il parlât à son frère.
   I wanted him to talk to his brother.
   Equivalent: Je voulais qu'il parle à son frère.

Go on to page 2 to learn how to conjugate the imperfect subjunctive.

French imperfect subjunctive conjugations are based on the passé simple.

1) For all -ER verbs, including stem-changing verbs and the normally irregular verb aller, take the third person singular form of the passé simple as the stem and add the imperfect subjunctive endings. Note that spelling-change verbs like manger and lancer have their spelling irregularity in all of these conjugations.

2) For -IR verbs, -RE verbs, and irregular verbs, the imperfect subjunctive is formed as follows: third person singular form of the passé simple minus the final t, plus the imperfect subjunctive endings.

Here are the imperfect subjunctive endings and conjugations for the -ER verbs parler (to speak), manger (to eat), lancer (to throw), and aller (to go), the regular -IR and -RE verbs finir (to finish) and rendre (to return), and the irregular verbs avoir (to have) and venir (to come):

French imperfect subjunctive conjugations

3rd person singular passé simple  il parlail mangeail lançail alla
Imperfect subjunctive stemparla-mangea-lança-alla-
 ...que je-sseparlassemangeasselançasseallasse
 ...que tu-ssesparlassesmangeasseslançassesallasses
 ...qu'il-^tparlâtmangeât  lançâtallât
 ...que nous-ssionsparlassions  mangeassions  lançassions  allassions
 ...que vous-ssiezparlassiezmangeassiezlançassiezallassiez
3rd person singular passé simpleil finitil renditil eutil vint
Imperfect subjunctive stemfini-rendi-eu-vin-
 ...que je-ssefinisserendisseeussevinsse
 ...que tu-ssesfinissesrendisseseussesvinsses
 ...que nous-ssionsfinissionsrendissionseussionsvinssions
 ...que vous-ssiezfinissiezrendissiezeussiezvinssiez