Thursday, May 24, 2012

quirks with the imperfect tense in French

You may recall my post on how to form the imperfect tense in French. I mentioned some freakiness with the double-i:

Nous étudiions. (We were studying.)

Nous skiions. (We were skiing.)

Another quirk to watch out for has to do with the letters c and g. I believe I've explained this in another post, but to reiterate:

When placed in front of the vowels a and o, the consonants c and g undergo a slight change if they're to be pronounced softly (i.e., the "s" sound for c, the "zh" sound for g): the c gains a cedilla, and the g takes on an extra e after it.

Examples: le français, nous mangeons

This is relevant when forming the imperfect tense. Take commencer, for example:

je commençais (note the cedilla)
tu commençais
elle commençait
nous commencions (note the lack of cedilla, because the c is followed by an i, not a or o)
vous commenciez
ils commençaient (cedilla again!)

Now watch what happens with manger:

je mangeais (note the additional e)
tu mangeais
il mangeait
nous mangions (no e!)
vous mangiez
elles mangeaient (e again!)

Keep these changes in mind as you master l'imparfait!


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