What is imperfect tense? How do you form it. and can you please give me few examples?

1 Answer
Jan 6, 2017

The Imperfect tense refers to an event in the past that repeats or is continuing.


[Compare this with the Simple Past ( Past Perfect or Preterit), which indicates a completed action.]

The Imperfect doesn't specify whether you're talking about the beginning of the action, the middle or the end.

In English, the Imperfect needs what's called a verbal periphrasis (a phrase) to indicate that the action is not completed. An action in the Imperfect can be happening when another event (in the Simple Past tense) occurs.

Examples of Simple Past Tense: (action completed)
I went to the store this morning.
Last night, I woke up at three a.m., but I slept well the night before.
The neighbor's dog bit me yesterday.
I cooked Thanksgiving dinner last year, so it's your turn this year.

Examples of Imperfect Past Tense: (action continues or repeats)
I was preparing food and cooking for hours, but got it all done on time. (continues)
My sister was tossing and turning all night long; I sure wish we didn't have to share a room. (continues)
My brother used to run home from school every day. (repeats)
Until I was six I would wake up at 4:00 a.m. every Christmas morning to see if I could catch Santa Claus. (repeats)

Examples of an action in progress (Imperfect) when another event occurs (Simple Past):
They were crossing the street when a car nearly hit them.
The driver was texting and didn't see the pick-up truck that hit him.
When I first got my pony, I would run to the barn every morning to greet him.

Simple Past only needs one verbal form:
I/He/They walked, ran, hit, fell, saw, said, laughed, et cetera.

Imperfect Past needs more words (verbal periphrasis) to convey idea of repetition or uncompleted action:
was reading the paper
were running a race
used to prefer dogs to cats
would get up early

In French or Spanish, it's much clearer whether a verb is in the Preterit or the Imperfect.