What is the imperfect tense?

The imperfect tense is different to the perfect tense because it tends to be used to describe one particular event in the past, rather than things that have happened in the past in general. For example, you may want to describe a particular concert you went to or a holiday you had.

For this reason, it’s the tense that people use when they are writing online reports, newspaper articles or novels. They are not describing things they have typically done – normally they want to tell you about one particular event or story.

Here’s an example, which states:

"Yesterday, the German national football team won their first game of the World Cup..."

A sports newspaper showing the first sentence of an article.

Forming the imperfect tense

The imperfect tense is not difficult as long as you learn the correct forms of the verb.

What’s nice about the imperfect tense is that you only use one verb, as there is no auxiliary verb like in the perfect tense.

As long as you remember that the imperfect tense form needs to go in second place, there is nothing difficult about the word order.

In fact, it’s exactly like the simple past in English:

Ich machte meine Hausaufgaben. – I did my homework.

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Don't use the imperfect tense too often. It's a common mistake made by English speakers. The perfect tense is more usual in German.