Translation:I used to have a small robot when I was little.
In school I learnt that the imperfect tense should be used whenever 'used to' is meant in english (e.g. I used to eat - je mangeais) and the compound past tense for stuff like 'I ate - J'ai mangé' Here the imperfect tense seems to be presented as past tense. When should you use the passé composé and l'imparfait or are they interchangeable?
The question of Passé Composé vs. Imparfait is one of the most difficult challenges for persons learning French. There are many good explanations but one of the most thorough I have found is on the University of Minnesota's website: https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
I have a better understanding from this. It is great that I understand this lesson pretty well after having finished the duolingo course. I will continue to practice and try to move forward. Thank you.
That's the best explanation I have ever seen... I have been studying English and had studied Japanese (passé composé intended LoL)... never read anything regarding grammar this comprehensive and not boring. Thanks.
I love that link because it tries to explain the thinking behind tense selection, or how a French person thinks about time. Also it shows there isn't always a "correct" choice. It's partly a stylistic choice made by the speaker/writer.
There is a comparison list between the two: 1. Incomplete vs complete events 2. Habitual (happened uncounted number of times) vs occasional events (happened for a specific number of times) 3. Mental states that are general vs those that are at a specific situation 4. Scene setting vs interrupting event
What I tell my students: Imparfait is used for descriptions. Hmmm. When I was young... when did you start or stop being young.... is there a specific moment? Nope. Another approach: PC = the perfect. In other words, a complete, PERFECT action. IMPARFAIT's are not "perfect"; Descriptions are not "perfect" because they are not necessarily "complete".
The difficulty is with etre and equating it with "was"; because "was" by itself is both "perfect" and "imperfect" in English. While I am answering a note that is 3 years old, I hope this will help others....
I really think that this sentence is wrong. I think I would have a little robot when I was a child translates J'aurais un petit robot quand j'étais petit. I mean, if I say I would like, say, etc It would be rather J'aimerais, Je dirais, etc, am I wrong?
The "would" that they're trying to use here is the "would" that means "used to" (expressing a repeated or habitual action in the past), e.g "I would travel to France when I was young," not the "would" expressing desire ("I would like...") or the "would" expressing "will" ("I would say...") or any of the other many uses of "would" in English.
That said, it's still awkward to express the repeated or habitual action of "having a robot" with "would", and so "used to" would be much better. The reason for this is that there's too much ambiguity with the conditional "...would have...".
Just a quick info here for any non-native English speakers around (like myself): "Would" is wrong here because, in standard English, it can replace "used to" only when the following verb signifies an action or a habit, not a state, so it can't be used here with the verb "to have".
"to have breakfast" basically means "to eat", so it's an action. Plus, "would" is here describing a habit in your example, so of course it works.
Although both "would" and "used to" can be used to indicate a habitual past action, these two terms are not always interchangeable. The "would" and "could" forms used in present conditional and past imperfect are often confused. I would rather say "I used to have...." (clearly in the past) rather than "I would have..." (easy to confuse with present conditional) to indicate something in the past whereas either "I used to" or "I would" + action verb are equally clear in referring to a habitual action in the past.
"Would" implies repetition. Like "I would have breakfast" it suggests it was a repeated but not continuous habit to have a robot, as if there was many robots that were habitually owned in succession.
I like to close my eyes and listen to everything before i translate it because i can read and translate much easier than hearing and translating, so this sentence was sure an earful!
I agree - great method for learning how to hear first. I do the same but cover the written words using a piece of paper. Have a lingot
AndrewCCarter good strategy, thanks.
Both "I had a small robot when i was little" and "I used to have a small robot when I was little." are correct answers. Is one answer better than the other or are both translations perfectly fine?
They are both correct translations, and I don't see much difference between them.
Yes, they are synonyms meaning 'not large'. Note though, that their usage in sentences tend to be different even though they convey the same idea.
When expressing size, they tend to be interchangeable. For example:
They live in a small house just by the forest.
They live in a little house just by the forest.
Little can be used as a quantifier meaning not much but small cannot have this meaning.
I will have little sleep tonight; I've drank too much coffee.
Small can be used to form comparatives and superlatives but small cannot.
This ball is smaller than the other.
Here is the smallest spoon I found.
Read more here:
I can't see how "used to" expresses "past imperfect". "Used to" in English suggests a past habitual activity that does not exist anymore. I thought "past imperfect" in French meant a past unfinished activity. This is so confusing. I was intimidated by this tense and repeated the previous sections for over three months. Today I tried this and now it makes me feel I'll never learn French.
Have you looked at any of the links given in the discussion? I think they do a good job of explaining how l'imparfait should be used and describing a habitual thing that used to happen/be is one way.
I think there is something wrong here. J'avais is the imparfait and means I was having or I used to have. I had is the passe composé, j'ai eu. Am I right or wrong?
Those are only a few possibilities for the imperfect. "The imperfect is used to describe habitual, repetitive actions in the past. Often, the verb in the imperfect tense is accompanied by an expression of time that indicates repetition" «quand j'étais petit» is a classic example of this. The «j'avais» part is actually an example of "used to have," but "used to" is optional in English because the explicit time expression implies it.
neverfox, you have put my confusion at rest. I was wondering why "j'étais" was needed: why would the second verb also be in imperfect? But you explain that a verb in imperfect is often followed by an expression of time that is ALSO repetitive.
My initial confusion led me translate the sentence as: "I used to have a small robot when I used to be young," which was obviously not accepted. Then I tried: "I used to have a small robot when I was being young," which (obviously) was still not accepted. Thanks for clarifying!
We would not say "I was having..." The "continuous" tense doesn't always work with all verbs. [Edit: the reason is that "have" meaning "to possess" is a stative verb. It does not refer to an action.] As neverfox has said, you can say "I had" or "I used to have" when translating the imperfect. For a very thorough explanation of the difference between Passé Composé and Imperfect, here is the best information I have found to date: https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
Why is it wrong to use "petite"? I figured that seeing the speaker is a woman it should be feminine.
The voice is just reading the sentence. It's not different than if a woman were reading a novel out loud; she's not going to change the genders of the words. Surely we shouldn't expect that we're never going to hear masculine words in first-person sentences because the voice is that of a woman. Type what you hear or translate what it says. You're not going to get credit for entering something else.
But here nothing in the context suggests that masculin should be used, so I think feminine should be acceptable as well.
If it's a listening exercise, as JK_67 implied by referring to the speaker, then there most certainly is: the pronunciation of « petit » is different from the pronunciation of « petite ».
I agree with you and disagree with the answers below: The woman speaker often swallows/mashes letters and words. I have to use the Slow button with her about five times as often as I do with the male speaker. When I hear her sentences, I ask "What is she trying to say that would be correct?" This has proven to be a good way to figure out what she is saying. In this case, there is no indication that she is simply reading someone else's words. So, the fact that she seems to say petit is just a reflection of the way she often pronounces things in a difficult way to understand IMHO.
The thing is that on Duolingo, the voice used for all exercises was only female for years. In 2015, the male voice was added but the sentences are not assigned to the male voice or the female voice based on their content. On Memrise, for example, exercises use a gender-appropriate voice. This means that on Duolingo, one has to listen very closely to the audio exercise for the pronunciation which will give the correct result and not pay attention to whether it is a male or female voice.
I wonder what's wrong with my translation "When I was small, I had a small robot."
I think it's just that your rearranged the given sentence, which Duo does not like us to do.
You must remember the answers are compared to a list provided to a computer program by people. When you start flipping the sequence around, the odds are poor that some person will have thought to put that answer on the list.
The given translation is just wrong. J'avais is imperfect tense, not conditional and hence should translate as "I was having" or "I had".
Technicaly, this sentence they give can be correct. Would can be used to express regular longer time events in past. Like for an example in a sentence "When I was younger, I would spend all my days on the beach." I'll admit that it is a little unusual, but it is acceptable. Also, I would not accept your "I had..." answer because in this case past continuous is better to express past duration. So, I was having or I used to have would be better in my oppinion.
Using "would" in this context is incorrect: that is used for repeated actions that occurred in the past. "Having" is not a repeated or continuous action, it is a state. So no "would have" or "was having", etc. "I used to have..." is fine, however.
For those who want more information on the difference between Passé Composé and Imparfait, here is an excellent resource from the University of Minnesota: https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
it seems that whoever does the translations for these verb tenses don't know how verb tenses work in english. In english, "I had" means exactly the same thing as "i used to have".
No, it really doesn't; that's kind of the whole point of this verb tense. Compare "I ate a hot dog" and "I used to eat a hot dog": "ate" implies the action was performed once, at a specific point in time; "used to eat" implies a repeated or continuous action that has ceased.
At one time, many of the English translations were made by non-native English speakers. They were doing their best. The team has been strengthened in the meantime and things are better.
No one seemed to question this sentence. It makes no sense. It should translate to "i had a small robot when I was young".
It has been accepted for almost a year now so you got it before it had been fixed.
I have a question, if one can use "Would" in the past imperfect and in the conditional, how to do to make sense, I mean, for example, if I say "I would eat" it could mean "Je mangais" or " Je mangerais"?
You are describing the difference between "would" as referring to a habitual action (We would go to the beach every weekend when I was a kid) versus the conditional "would" (I would like to go with you if you have room in the car). Same word (would) with completely different meanings.
Thank you, but do you mean I can use "Use to" to avoid this kind of confusion?, "I would play" "I use to play"?
Quand j'étais jeune, je pensais que mon père était l'homme le plus fort au monde = When I was young, I used to think my father was the strongest man in the world.
More on this here: https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/passe-compose-vs-imparfait/
That's correct but it would be "I used to play". You just have to make sure that it really refers to a habitual action. That usually means that there is some reference in the sentence that suggests that. One of the best resources I have found on using the imperfect tense (and how it is different from the Passé Composé) is found at this link to the University of Minnesota. I highly recommend giving it a good reading. https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
Question: where can I find verbs conjugation on Duolingo? Thanks in advance
As far as I now, Duolingo doesn't give an exhaustive list of conjugations.
The way to find the conjugation of a a word works in a translation question where the target language is the language you know (e.g. a French to English translation question if you are doing the French from English tree). This is how you get the conjugation:
In a translation question where the target language is the language you know, hover on the word you want to conjugate. Then, in the pop-up that appears click on the Conjugate button.
You can also visit French verb Conjugation | Reverso Conjugator in order to find conjugation tables for verbs. Mind you, Reverso is not affiliated to Duolingo.
No idea, but I find this non-Duo site useful: http://www.conjugation-fr.com/
If you want more instruction on conjugation, try this: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/fl/French-Verb-Conjugator-How-To-Conjugate-French-Verbs.htm
In a written exercise, mouse-over the French verb and click on the green "Conjugate" button. Or open a program in another tab on your browser with access to www.conjugation-fr.com or any French dictionary. If you use a tablet or smartphone, you can still open one of these apps alongside Duolingo and switch between them whenever you want to.
I've just arrived at this tense - and Duolingo seems to only give the conjugation for the présent indicatif, even though this lesson is about another tense. I just assumed that by now if we want to learn the conjugation we need to read the explanations before the lessons begin as Duolingo won't provide it during the lesson itself anymore.
I think the point is it tells you how to conjugate it from the present indicatif in the tips and notes section
Passé simple is not much used in speech although it is seen fairly often in literature. Passé simple is not taught on Duolingo. For a thorough comparison of when to use Passé Composé and when to use Imparfait, here is an excellent site: https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
I wrote, "I used to have a small robot when I was little." I was marked wrong. What do you think?
I can only conclude that there was a typing error because your answer is exactly the same as the answer shown at the top of the page.
Can someone help me understand whats wrong with this translation: "i was having a small robot when i was being little".
The way i understand is as follows: "little" is an adjective (a state of ageing: little, young, adult, old, etc) and imperfect tense are used to describe a state/event/action that are repetitive.
Your suggested sentence - "I was having a small robot when I was being little" - does not work in English. Let's split the sentence into two parts to see why it is not correct.
"I was having a small robot". The verb "to have" has many meanings. In some of these meaning we can use the continuous tenses "having", "is having", "was having". So we can say "She is having a baby", "She is having breakfast", "She is having fun" etc. These are actions. Something is happening.
But when "to have" is used to mean "to possess" or "to own" it is not an action it is a state. I either own a small robot or I don't. So I say "I own a small robot". I cannot say "I am owning a small robot".
So when "to have" is used to mean "to possess" we do not generally use it in its continuous form.
Let's look at the second part of your suggested sentence. "When I was being little". Here we have a similar problem. Again when "to be" is used to refer to an action we can use "being" but when it refers to a state we do not use it in its continuous form.
Take an example. Imagine yesterday you saw your friend driving a red car.
We can say that the car was being driven. But we cannot say that the car was being red. We have to say that the car was red.
"Being driven" is an action happening to the car. "Red" is simply a feature of the car.
So, as @mere_des_chats points out, when a verb is used as a "stative" verb we do not generally use the continuous tenses.
Thank you very much for the clarification. "But we can not say that the car was being red." -- You nailed it! That clarifies a lot.
I had to smile when reading this, as it shows that, compared to French, English is just as complex and difficult to learn.
The verbs "have" and "be" are part of what is known as stative verbs. They can never be used in the continuous form as you have used them. You either have or you had. You cannot be having. The same with the verb to be. You either are or you were, there is no such thing as you are being.
You can read more about stative verbs here: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/stative-verbs
As far as how l'imparfait is used nz6s has provided a link that clears that up.
I don't know about the differences in British vs. American English, but in American English, it is certainly fine to say, "When will you be having your baby?" and if "You are being difficult" is a problem, my response is to say that English is a fluid language, and just as spellings change, grammar also changes. If "Today it is snowing," and "Tomorrow it will snow," would you say, "Yesterday it snew?" Our ancestors would have said that quite readily, but that has changed to "snowed" in recent decades. (If my students are any indication, grew and drew are vying to be next to change in that vein; another that has made that move already iscrow/crew/crowed. (I know there was another mentioned in the class I took about this! Drat!)
Did you read the link I provided on the difference between stative and active verbs? This has nothing to do with fluidity of language but rather correct and incorrect grammar.
In the example you have provided, "having a baby", the verb "have" is not indicating possession, which is the stative form, but the activity of delivering a child.
You cannot use the continuous form of "have" to indicate possession, which was the sense in this exercise; not even in American English. If "have" is describing an activity, it can be continuous, even in British English, eg "I am having fish for lunch."
Or take the verb "to be" meaning a permanent state. If you are acting silly, you can say you are "being silly". But you cannot talk about a state (of being) that way. Like you cannot say you are "being tired" or that you are "being tall" not even in American English. Which is why "being" would not work in this exercise either.
I am glad that other people understand grammar in the same way I am glad that other people can grow plants.
I have a brown thumb for grammar technicalities and specifications, but I generally spell well enough for the purposes of the day. In English only, however. French and Spanish still need a lot of work, and well, let's not even get into the Russian/Slavonic that I'm most likely to use, but least familiar with, as yet.
Thank you for your clarification, here.
You're welcome. ;c) At least you can brag about having dabbled in more than two languages. Kudos to you!
Thank you very much for the clarification. So I understand that these verbs "have" and "be" cannot be used in continuous forms when they describe a state (like in my wrong translation : ". . . was being little").
in case you wonder if you should translate it as "I was having a robot..." remember this hilarious part of the notes for the lesson:
"Nous avions trois cousins. — We had three cousins. (Using "were having" would make you a confessed cannibal.)
Thank goodness the sentence which stimulated these discussions will never be required to be used by me. Puts me right off French. ...and English
Really, there's nothing wrong with it.
It only uses the emphatic mood (by the use of the word 'did').
I don't know if it translates back the same way in French though.
I do not know what your first language is but saying what you've written here sounds extremely unnatural.
Also the given sentence is referring to the past when the speaker was not as big as s/he is now while your proposal is written in present tense, in addition to sounding odd.
i thought j'etais petit could be 'used to be little' since etre means 'to be' right?
Is the difference between the imperfect and perfect past tense in French the same as in Spanish.
"Used to" does not just imply something repetitive.
We used to live next to a family from Poland in the early nineties.
That was a continuous event, not one that happened repetitively.
I doubt that is something that can happen anytime soon. There are so many other simpler glitches in need of fixing that methinks that that is a tall order for a free program.
You can usually get an answer to such a question by reading the discussion as various answers are often discussed. And if your answer is not given, then you can post the variations you know and ask for others. It is more fun learning when you actually do some leg work than just waiting for Duo to serve it all on a platter.
It is a weird sentence if you don't understand western nostalgia. I have heard this exact sentence before. When talking to a friend about the differences between the toys children own now, versus when we were children. A common 'modern' toy from the 1960's was a "Robbie the robot" toy fashioned after the television show "Lost in Space." A friend said to me, "I had a robot (toy), when I was a kid- they were great, but the batteries never lasted very long."
I think the speaker said petite, not petit. If petite had been given in the duolingo translation I doubt whether it would have been questioned.
But having got this far in Duolingo, even if you did not know the gender for robot and heard /p'teet/ not /p'tee/ you should have known it cannot be so because the article before it is masculine un not une.
The gender of the robot is irrelevant as the petit or petite relates to the speaker, not the robot.However, I agree that sometimes examination of the sentence can clarify gender.
LOL! I am not talking about the gender of the robot. I am talking about the gender of the word robot. And it depends on which petit you are referring to. The first one is an adjective that is describing the noun robot and it has to be petit because the noun is masculine. That is what I was talking about, and for that matter it does not matter what gender the speaker is, the word would not change.
Now the second one, would depend on the speaker, but in this exercise, the voice of the speaker is not what determines the gender of the word; it is the sound of it. /P'tee/ is what is clearly said--and a man with a feminine voice would probably say it the way the feminine voice says it--and so the word would be spelled without a final E.
Now had the object of discussion been a doll, une poupée, then the sentence would be:
j'avais une petite poupée quand j'étais petit.
...and because of the use of une, you'd know an E is needed for the first word for "small".
We are clearly at crossed purposes here.There is no problem with the first petit because it relates to the robot which is masculine. My observation relates to the second "petit" only. We are asked to say what we heard, which is not always what was said. Thank you for taking the time to comment.
My second paragraph did address the second petit and I do not hear the second T in the pronunciation by the female voice. And no one else in this discussion has claimed to hear petite besides you. The only other person who suggested it assumed it ought to be petite because the voice sounded feminine, not because that is what was heard.
So please listen again. The voice unmistakenly says petit not petite. Duo's audio is sometimes off the mark, but this is not one of those cases when it is. Otherwise, you would not be the only one in 4 years to bring that up.