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Thoughts on learning...knowing when to employ which tense

I am using Duolingo to refresh my very rusty french knowledge and I find it really wonderful for learning/ relearning grammer. One skill I feel is lacking is when to employ certain tenses. It is all very well to know how to conjugate verbs in the passé composé and obviously dividing things up into units for each tense makes sense for learning the basics but... once you have learned a tense the next step is to learn how and when to use it. When should I use passé composé and when should I use imparfait, for example? I wanted to refresh my knowledge of the conditional verb for example, so I reviewed the unit on conditional verbs , but all it did was give me practice in the conditional... but no practice in when I should employ it. I knew I was doing the conditional exercise so I knew all my answers should be in conditional tense. In hindsight I think this was also a problem with my school language learning as well. We would memorize the conjugations for whatever tense we were studying at the time... and then, move on to the next tense. I didn’t actually get much practice though in distinguishing when to use each tense. In any book you read or real life you will come across multiple tenses in a single paragraph. I am looking forward to the new skill levels and wonder if we will get any skills that mix tenses. This isn’t a complaint on duolingo or even a question, just some thoughts. I was writting about french as an example, but I feel this is true for the other languages I am learning as well. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

January 2, 2018



There is a free translation site (especially English and French texts, but also spanish, italian, deutsch...) where students can discuss this problem, when it appears in a text.

I bet you would find a lot of benefits by signing up.

There are a lot of old (and current) students of Duolingo, I do not have the right to give the link (Duolingo does not want to) but if you enter translatihan.com in a FAI you will arrive on the site.

It's free, friendly and very very informative, try it, and maybe that will end up encouraging ripcurlgirl to try by herself.


You screwed up the spelling mon ami ☺ It is translatihan.com/

Why would duolingo object to the site? It is non-profit and is filling the void left after DL removed immersion. They can hardly complain. And, yes, I have been a member for a while but shortly I will try to join in too. A lot has happened to our family in the last 6 mths but, for all my uselessness, I might join in soon Pierre. ☺ Remind me, what is your username on there?


Oh oui, quel maladroit ! J'ai réparé. Ouf ! Merci beaucoup. Pour la peine un petit cadeau :

« Nous partîmes cinq cents ; mais par un prompt renfort

Nous nous vîmes trois mille en arrivant au port,

Tant, à nous voir marcher avec un tel visage,

Les plus épouvantés reprenaient leur courage! »


☺ btw : I just remembered your username on there so never mind ☺


Un modérateur a rappelé que la charte d'utilisation de Duolingo ne permettait pas d'utiliser le forum pour faire ce genre de publicité. Ce n'est pas grave. Le nom suffit pour retrouver l'adresse du site. There I am Oplusse, but they call me Pierre.


Thanks, I will take a look at this site. It sounds interesting.


Great ! See you soon !


I haven’t signed up yet but I looked at the site and read the fac page. I am a bit hesitant just because I am unclear as to what they mean by non commercial. Do you know if they non commercial only in the sense they don’t take money from users and don’t show ads, or is it completely non-profit? My main question/ concern is what do they do/ what is the copyright on the translated content? Is the translated content sold? I tried to look for an answer to this question on th site but couldn’t find it, so if you know I would appreciate it. I think I would probably join anyways, but would like to have a better idea before I sign up.


Formerly on Duolingo there was a tab dedicated to translation. Duolingo, for his own reasons, suppressed it.

A small group of comrades from duolingo created a purely recreational site. Two of them had computer skills. The translators came to join them. The site has been around for 10 months. The translated texts are not resold. Literary textes free of copyright are often translated. Sometimes I also see news articles. And, once, I wrote a little text that I made available to the community.

You have to take that as a gang of comrades who are having fun exchanging their language skills.

You are right to be careful. There are many natives english people there who could tell you more. My English is pretty clumsy (fortunately I have a flop of dictionaries).


Merci Beaucoup! Thank you! You answered my question perfectly. I feel much more comfortable knowing the texts are not resold. Your English is excellant! I had no idea until reading the end of you comment that English is not your first language. J’éspere qu’une jour mon française serait si bien que ton Anglaise!


Passé simple is only used in very formal speeches and in literature, so it is a tense you really only need to know if you intend to do a lot of reading - it is not employed in conversation or general letter / report writing. It is also not reviewed or taught on Duolingo for the same reason.


Thanks. I suppose passé simple wasn’t the best example I could have given in that case. I have done the tree but didn’t realise it was not part of the duolingo course. I can understand why it would be left out. I was generally speaking of all tenses but thanks for the clarification. That said, I do intend to do alot of reading. I just edited the question and changed passe compose in the question to imparfait so hopefully it makes more sense in the context of discussion on duolingo.


To sort out if you need imparfait or passé composé, think of a time line. Do you have a single point ? Passé composé. Several points ? Imparfait. If you have a segment, it depends if the action is finished or not, when you speak and when it's happening : Je ne disais rien. I was saying nothing. (the action is running) Je n'ai rien dit. I didn't say anything. (the action is over) J'habitais ce quartier (every day = several points / action is running). Un jour, j'ai déménagé (single point / action is over). But that "once" can also be seen as a long action : Pendant que je déménageais (action is running) quelqu'un est venu me parler (single point). Does it help ?


I have the exact same problem. They should definitely put some tips and notes under the last skills, 'cause I really do not have clue when to use the conditional, subjunctive, pluperfect etc...


Please try to come and see translatihan.com (as I said in an other comment) there we discuss nice grammar questions by translating various texts.

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