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  5. Imparfait? Passé Composé?


Imparfait? Passé Composé?

I've read grammar book chapters, watched you tube videos, repeatedly asked my French-speaking friends, and yet I still seem to struggle and stumbling along when it comes to capturing the essence of when to use which past tense. So --- dear friends, I have a request. I think it may just be the tool to mastering the French past tense imbroglio:

Can someone please give examples of using the same verb in both imparfait and passé composé side-by-side.

It might look something like this:

Avoir. To have. Imparfait: J'avais. Passé Composé: J'ai eu.

[Both can be translated, of course as "I had". What might be an example of an "Imparfait I had" and what could be a "Passe Composé I had"?

Etre. To be. Imp: Tu étais. PC: Tu as été.

Examples using both:

Maybe we could collaborate on this. Hopefully others too can find it useful.

Thanks in advance, Max

September 8, 2017



So my understanding of the difference of the two is that the imparfait is used in a continuous sense.

Je regardais un film. --- I was watching a movie.

J'ai regardé un film. --- I watched a movie.

The first example is in the imparfait. It's an action that began at some point in the past and is still happening. The second example is compound past. It's an action that occurred in the past but is not currently happening now.


Very clear and helpful. Thank you.

Given the Ottawa Senators avatar/name, your previous example of falling on the ice makes perfect sense ;) Je tombais sur la glace. --- I was falling on the ice. Je suis tombé sur la glace --- I fell on the ice.

I have also since realized that translating the Imp. vs. PC to emphasize the differences is very helpful - but unfortunately is not always used. So -- it is clearer if: J'ai vu (passé composé) = I saw, and Je voyais (imparfait) = I used to see.

Cheers, Max


Lol sorry I edited it because I was going to elaborate on the example but fell asleep haha. But yeah, you're right, the imparfait can also translate to "used to" and the verb.

Oh, and it's the Leafs who are always falling to the ice, not the Sens lol. Freaking divers... XD


(brossais / me suis brossé) Tous les matins je me brossais les dents, mais, ce matin-là, je ne sais pas pourquoi, je me suis brossé la langue. Allez comprendre.

(écrivaient / ont écrit) Les écoliers écrivaient avec lenteur, quand le professeur a promis une récompense à celui qui finirait le premier, tous les élèves ont écrit rapidement.

(dormais, ai dormi) Je dormais dans la chambre de mon frère depuis toujours, quand il est parti en internat, j'ai enfin dormi seul.

(nageais, ai nagé) Depuis une heure, je nageais le crawl ; une crampe est arrivée, j'ai nagé sur le dos pour me reposer.


This is exactly what I had in mind. Thanks very much. Can be tricky at times. Not always self-evident, unfortunately.

So, I'll try SUIVRE - to follow. Let's see if I get it ...

Je suivais. I followed. (Imparfait). Je suivais mon frère. I was following my brother. J'ai suivi. I followed. (Passè comp.) J'ai suivi mon frère. I followed my brother.

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