Languages › French 'L'Imparfait du Subjonctif': An Important French Literary Tense How to use the French Imperfect Subjunctive in Formal Writing Share Flipboard Email Print French Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Resources For Teachers by ThoughtCo Updated February 03, 2019 The French l'imparfait du subjonctif (the "imperfect subjunctive") is a literary tense used in formal writing, such as literature, journalism, and history texts, and for narration. Like all literary verb forms, you really only need to be able to recognize it, not to use it. L'imparfait du subjonctif is one of five literary tenses in French. They have virtually disappeared from spoken language, unless the speaker wishes to sound erudite. All five French literary tenses include: Passé simplePassé antérieurL'imparfait du subjonctif Plus-que-parfait du subjonctif Seconde forme du conditionnel passé Examples of the French Imperfect Subjunctive The imperfect subjunctive is used in a subordinate clause when the main clause is in the past. Its nonliterary equivalent is the present subjunctive. For example: Il partit pour que nous eussions la salle à nous-mêmes. > He left so that we'd have the room to ourselves.Nonliterary 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.Nonliterary equivalent: Je voulais qu'il parle à son frère.Je craignais qu’il fût mort. > I feared he was dead.Nonliterary equivalent: Je craignais qu’il soit mort.Elle voyagea quoiqu’elle n’eût point d’argent. > She traveled even though she didn’t have any money.Nonliterary equivalent: Elle a voyagé quoiqu’elle n’ait pas eu d’argent. How to Conjugate the French Imperfect Subjunctive Literary Tense Conjugation of the French l'imparfait du subjonctif is based on the French passé simple ("simple past"), also known as the "preterite" or passé défini ("definite past"). Passé simple is the literary equivalent of the everyday passé composé, and, like the imperfect subjunctive, it's used predominantly in formal writing such as literature, journalism, and history texts. 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. Below 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") respectively;and the irregular verbs avoir ("to have") and venir ("to come"). Indicative Conjugations of the French Imperfect Subjunctive Tense parler manger lancer aller 3rd person singular passé simple il parla il mangea il lança il alla imperfect subjunctive stem parla- mangea- lança- alla- Pronoun Ending ...que je -sse parlasse mangeasse lançasse allasse ...que tu -sses parlasses mangeasses lançasses allasses ...qu'il -^t parlât mangeât lançât allât ...que nous -ssions parlassions mangeassions lançassions allassions ...que vous -ssiez parlassiez mangeassiez lançassiez allassiez ...qu'ils -ssent parlassent mangeassent lançassent allassent finir rendre avoir venir 3rd person singular passé simple il finit il rendit il eut il vint imperfect subjunctive stem fini- rendi- eu- vin- Pronoun Ending ...que je -sse finisse rendisse eusse vinsse ...que tu -sses finisses rendisses eusses vinsses ...qu'il -^t finît rendît eût vînt ...que nous -ssions finissions rendissions eussions vinssions ...que vous -ssiez finissiez rendissiez eussiez vinssiez ...qu'ils -ssent finissent rendissent eussent vinssent Additional Resources French literary tensesPassé simple literary tensePassé antérieur literary tensePlus-que-parfait du subjonctif literary tense Seconde forme du conditionnel passé literary tense Continue Reading These Tenses Are Only Used in Literature in French Learn How to Conjugate "Répéter" (to Repeat) in French 'Passé Anterieur' (Anterior Past): An Important French Literary Tense How to Conjugate the Verb "Jouir" (to Enjoy) in French French Pluperfect or Past Subjunctive Tense Learn How to Conjugate "Réduire" (to Reduce) in French How Does the Past Tense Work in French? Learn How to Say "Rested" in French Using the Verb "Reposer" "Include" the Verb "Inclure" in Your French Vocabulary How Do You Conjugate "Fuir" (to Flee) in French? How to Conjugate "Valoir" (to Value) in French Conjugating Regular French Verbs in the Subjunctive How Do You Conjugate "Worry" in (Inquiéter) in French? How to Conjugate "Ranger" (to Arrange) in French "Throw" the Conjugations of "Lancer" Into Your French Vocabulary Learn to Say "I Influenced" in French Using "Influencer"