French: verbs: how to form the imparfait

The tutor shows the easy trick to form the imparfait.

Way back in my post from Aug 24, 2012, I mentioned when to use the imparfait vs passé composé vs plus-que-parfait. Today, it’s been brought to my attention that many students might have trouble constructing the imparfait. Here’s how:

  • If the verb is not être, the stem is the present nous form of the verb, without ons. Example: for the verb travailler, the imparfait stem is travaill

The endings, then, are as follows:

pronoun ending
je -ais
tu -ais
elle/il -ait
nous -ions
vous -iez
elles/ils -aient

  • For the verb être, the stem is ét, but the endings are as above.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

French education: the challenge of exogamy

In BC, 75% of francophone families are exogamous.

Exogamy refers to the marriage of someone from a certain culture, to a spouse from outside that culture.  From the francophone perspective, an exogamous family has one parent with French as the mother tongue, while the other parent has a different mother tongue.

In the francophone education system, most students come from exogamous families. As homogeneous French families become increasingly rare in Canada, the survival of francophone education outside Quebec depends on the enrollment of children from exogamous families.

Many people wonder why they would send their child to francophone education when they could just send them to the English system.  The answer is that in Canada, children who are educated in French usually turn out to be better in English as well.  Most people accept without question that knowing a second language is advantageous, and that learning it from a young age – if possible – is the best way.

Surprisingly, a francophone parent will often speak English at home to their children.  At the same time, the exogamous parent (usually English-speaking) may be more serious about their children’s learning French – probably because it’s a great opportunity that the English parent never had themselves.

The challenge for the francophone schools is to devise a way to welcome the non-French parents of exogamous families, while still maintaining a French-speaking environment.  Such a solution will likely ensure the growth of French-English bilingualism outside Quebec.


Rodrigue Landry, “The challenges of exogamy”

“English Information,” Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie Britannique

French: practical hints for typing accents

When you tutor French, a student might ask how to produce the accents on an English keyboard.  Here are a couple of options:

On a Microsoft product, every French accent has its own Alt+(4 digit code).  For instance, this ç was typed using Alt+0231.  You need to hold down the Alt key, then type 0231 using the numeric keypad to the right – not the numbers across the top. Here are some codes that, once memorized, can really speed up your French typing:

é:     Alt+0233

è:     Alt+0232

à:     Alt+0224

ç:     Alt+0231

î:     Alt+0238

ô:    Alt+0244

Another way to produce accents is to use the character map.  Look under All Programs→Accessories→System Tools and you should see it.  It’s a grid of different characters which you can copy and paste to your work – really a great tool.

If you’re in Word, of course, you can go Insert→Symbol to find everything you need.  Word has its own shortcut sequences; my wife uses them all the time.  However, the sequences above will work in Word as well.

If you like the copy and paste method, here’s a time saver:  Copy and paste all the accents you’ll need when you first start, like so:

à  ç  è  é  î  ô

Now, you don’t have to flip back and forth between a menu and your work; you can just copy and paste from the list.

I hope this helps:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

French: present tense of avoir and être

Whether tutoring French or learning it, these verb conjugations are critically important.

The French verb to be is  être.  Its present tense conjugation is as follows:

je suis (I am) nous sommes (we are)
tu es (you [singular] are) vous êtes (you [plural] are)
il est (he is) ils sont (they [masculine or mixed] are)
elle est (she is) elles sont (they [females only] are)

The French verb to have is avoir. Its present tense conjugation:

j’ai (I have) nous avons (we have)
tu as (you [singular] have) vous avez (you [plural] have)
il a (he has) ils ont (they [masculine or mixed] have)
elle a (she has) elles ont (they [females only] have)


Nous sommes dans le salon.    We are in the living room.

J’ai une gomme.    I have an eraser.

Not only are these conjugations important for everyday communication, but also they comprise the auxiliary for the passé composé – the French past tense.  We are headed in that direction – among others – for future posts.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC

French: passé composé, imparfait, and plus-que-parfait: when to use them.


Well, today I thought we’d discuss some French:  specifically, the passé composé, the imparfait, and the plus-que-parfait.  In what situation do you use each?

The passé composé is the first way to express the past tense that I learned in high school.  It is the French equivalent to the English verb with -ed (eg., I walked).  The passé composé has two parts:  the auxiliary, followed by the past participle.

The imparfait expresses, as my French teachers always explained, “a state of things that had no particular beginning.  It may not yet be finished.”  For instance, “When I was young ….”  Additionally, “It was raining….”  Both use the imparfait tense.  In French, it’s among the easiest constructions, consisting of a stem with a subject-specific ending.

The plus-que-parfait expresses a completed action that happened before another completed action.  Consider  the sentence:  “I had finished the laundry when you called.”  “I had finished” is the plus-que-parfait tense, whereas “you called” is the passé composé.

Well, there you have it:  the passé composé, the imparfait, and the plus-que-parfait.  My wife (who is French and does our French tutoring) explained them to me.

Have a great day.  Come again.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.