Thank you. I see now. In one sentence, "étaient assis" is the pluperfect with "assis" being the past participle of asseoir, rendered "had sat". The other sentence has "assis" as an adjective and using the imperfect form of être, rendered "were sitting". They are identical in French (étaient assis) but they are not identical in English depending on what the (French) speaker meant to say. So you see how this can be puzzling. I have posted the observation that one cannot properly translate something unless one knows what the person speaking actually meant. This is a classic example of that. Admittedly, it is a tempest in a teapot, this "had sat" vs. "were seated" business. But the only way we can learn is to understand the correct use of the different tenses. Thanks again for coming through, Sitesurf! You're the best!
"Les cinq vieux hommes étaient assis là" uses the pluperfect for "The five old men had sat there" (Duo's pluperfect sentence translated above, which I believe to be correct)....which you translated in your reply to lkt005 as "The five old men were sitting there" (Imperfect tense). How is the same sentence in French (Pluperfect) translated using two different tenses in English? I'm sorry to belabor the question, but you mention "s'asseyaient = were sitting down" (Imperfect) as relating to movement (you may be referring to the present participle -- waiting, running, sitting --used in the formation of the Imperfect tense). Given that "étaient assis" is the pluperfect tense, this tense is formed in English with the past tense of "to have" (i.e., "had"...not "were") plus the past participle of the verb (sat, not sitting). So how does that end up being "were" seated? The imperfect indicative of être is not literally translated to "were" to form the pluperfect tense in English. French uses two auxilary verbs, avoir and être, but English uses only one auxiliary verb to form this tense, the Past Tense of "to have" = "had".
"être assis" being a state and not an action, it works like être + adjective (= be seated)
"étaient assis" is not pluperfect but imparfait = were seated. Pluperfect is "avaient été assis" = had been seated.
- Present: sont assis
- Passé: furent assis
- Imparfait: étaient assis
- Futur simple: seront assis
- Passé composé: ont été assis
- Passé antérieur: eurent été assis
- Futur antérieur: auront été assis
No difference: s'asseoir = to sit down. http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english/asseoir/5775
I agree about "be seated" used as a polite invite. But "soyez assis" would not do the job in French.
This sentence does not belong to social conventions but to a description of a past action. If it were a state, the French verb would look like "avaient été assis là" instead of "s'étaient assis là".
In English "to sit oneself" and "to sit" are synonymous (eg: "sit yourself down!", "he sat himself by the fire..."). I suppose the latter is just a contraction of the former that omits the reflexive (which in English is superfluous to grammatical requirements, not to mention far less discreet and efficient than in French!). In any case, despite sounding archaic and a tad colloquial/narrative in tone, I think it would also be correct to interpret this as "the five old men had sat themselves there".
'The five old men had sat themselves there.'
I understand the reflexive is not generally used in the English translation of the phrase, but given it's existence in the French, I am not sure if it would be inappropriate to use it. At any rate, this is currently marked wrong.
the reflexive form uses reflexive pronouns: me, te, se, nous, vous, se. in compound tenses, they use auxiliary verb être (vs avoir):
je me lave, tu te regardes, il se brosse, elle se maquille, on s'en va, nous nous asseyons, vous vous levez, ils/elles se garent.
je me suis lavé(e), tu t'es regardé(e), il s'est brossé, elle s'est maquillée, nous nous sommes assis(es), vous vous êtes levé(e)(s), ils/elles se sont garés(es).
I'm also confused.
So, "Les cinq vieux hommes étaient assis là" = "The five old men were sitting there"?
But, "Les cinq vieux hommes s'étaient assis là" = "The five old men had sat there"? hmmm...
"étaient assis" is the passive voice. So I guess that "were sitting" indicates passive voice whereas "had sat" is not passive voice.??