"The bird carried a fish in its beak."
Translation:L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans son bec.
Why not 'L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans le bec.' I learned that human body parts are not given the possessive if they obviously belong to the person possessing. the bird can hardly carry a fish in a different bird's beak.
Incidentally, the other day I saw a herring gull catch a fair sized flatfish at low tide. It was struggling to keep it to itself as it seemed that all the seagulls in the area wanted to steal the catch. So maybe with a bit of mind juggling a bird might just manage to carry a fish in another bird's beak. If the other bird got the fish and wouldn't let go and the original bird was holding on fast to the bird that had stolen the fish....
The imperfect tense is not just past continuous. Imperfect is used (primarily) for 1) habitual or repeated actions in the past, or 2) an action that was in progress in the past. It has other uses, too. So that would look like this:
- L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans son bec = the bird carried a fish in its beak. It generally describes a single completed event.
- L'oiseau portait un poisson dans son bec = 1) the bird would (-or- used to) carry a fish in its beak (describing a habitual action in the past) or 2) the bird was carrying a fish in its beak. (Describing an action that was in progress without reference to what happened next).
Take a look at this site for an excellent explanation of the difference between Passé composé and imperfect. https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html
This is great, thanks. Could you also comment on my original observation. Why son bec and not le bec? Thanks again.
I suppose it depends on how long it carried it. Normally the bird would swallow it quickly and regurgitate it for it's young if needed, or digest it itself. So the duration would be fairly short lived.
It is not about the length of time. Imperfect is used to describe an action in progress (in the past) without reference to when the action began or when (or if) it ended. This aspect of the imperfect tense is like a moving picture of something that was happening in the past. The Passé composé is like a still picture of a completed event. It happened. It's done. There are other uses of imperfect, primarily in regard to habitual or repeated actions in the past. There are other uses, as well.