Monday, October 09, 2006
After my short holiday from learning French mutated into an extended strike - how fitting is it that my first lesson upon return is about l'imparfait?
The imperfect is not only the lapsed débutante de français, moi - but the French past tense that wants you to know there's a another reason to learn the nous and vous verb forms in the present tense.
I hadn't been bothering to completely conjugate all the verbs that I've been learning. I can speak for myself: Je parle anglais. I can turn a simple sentence into a question for my teacher: Parles-tu anglais? (in the familiar because, oui, je tutoie!). I can also tell you about somebody, he or she as easily as "je": il parle/elle parle/on parle anglais! (tu also likes sharing verb forms with je on many occassions.)
I was basically content to stumble when conjugating the nous and vous forms because they rarely came up. That is, until I took a trip into the French imperfect past. Suddenly they are the foundation upon which habits and states of beings are built - just replace the endings in the nous or vous present form:
parler = nous parlons, vous parlez we speak, you (formal) speak
boire = nous buvons, vous buvez we drink, you (formal) drink
(je bois, tu bois, il/elle/on boit, ils/elles boivent)
with the proper imperfect endings:
je parlais I was speaking, I used to speak
je buvais I was drinking, I used to drink
Of course there are exceptions... but that's when memorizing and quizzing yourself can help. Like I now have to, too. Being imperfect isn't easy.
La photo: Street Art à San Antonio, Texas. Octobre 2004.