"Elle regardait à travers la fenêtre."

Translation:She was looking through the window.

February 10, 2013

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Most French natives would say "Elle regardait par la fenêtre."


I'm unclear on the specific meaning here, and whether or not the mapping of tenses to English can be done. Example:

"She looked through the window when the car stopped." vs "She was looking through the window when the car stopped."

The first indicates a momentary action in the past, and that she looked after the car stopped. The second indicates an ongoing action in the past, and that she started looking before the car stopped. These have significantly different meanings in English, but Duolingo translates them both to the same French phrase. Should one of them really be, "Elle a regardé…" instead?


Michael, you have an excellent point and it is key in understanding how the imperfect tense is used. In your example, I believe one would use "Elle a regardé" for the first sentence (indicating that it was only when the car stopped that she looked out the window). The second sentence is a classic use of the imperfect to show that the first action (looking out the window) was in progress (using imperfect tense) when the second action (the car stopped) occurred, using Passé composé. Duo's shorter sentences often omit reference to a second action (I suppose to keep the sentence length from becoming unwieldy) and in doing so leave more to the imagination. Another issue, and perhaps a possibility for misunderstanding, is the use of the term "ongoing action" which causes some to believe that the action must still be going on in the present in order to justify using the imperfect tense. Rather, it simply refers to an action that was taking place in the past, usually referenced against the second action that was occurring either simultaneously in the past (also using imperfect) or that began (using passé composé) while the first action was in progress. In the example given by Duolingo, the use of the imperfect tense indicates that "She was looking...." and not "She looked...." Anyway, good job at spotting this. You are right on the money!


n6zs, thank you. This goes a long way to clarifying what I am trying to say in French when I use past imperfect, especially the second half of the post. (Hope you are correct!) I speak English as a first language. But even with English I am not consciously following rules. Thanks again.


Would 'She was watching through the window' also be correct? And if not, could someone please say why not? Thanks

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