Imparfait or Passe Compose?

Hey! I have a question regarding when I would use either form?

You see recently I've had trouble because I tend to use passe compose for almost everything when talking in past tense when I am told I should have used Imparfait?

My question is basically why and when would I use je mangeais instead of j'ai mangé but not just for manger. Cause I would have just used j'ai mangé but I am told that it would have been better to use imparfait and i just don't understand why!

Thanks! :)

June 24, 2018


"Difference between the imperfect and the compound past.

If the two times evoke a past action, there are differences between when to use these two times.

The imperfect is used for a description, to speak of a habit, of a progressing action in the past:" Quand il faisait froid, je mangeais au restaurant." (when it was cold, i ate at the restaurant) Here is a habit.

For the past composed, the action is precise and completed. "hier, j'ai mangé du poulet" (yesterday, i ate chiken)

He did it once, it's past, dated." :)

June 24, 2018

je mangeais: I was eating (when something else happened) or I used to eat

j'ai mangé: I ate or I have eaten

June 24, 2018

So would it be like, I ate the food for passe compose and i was eating but i fell for parfait? Also ty for the help! :)

June 24, 2018

Yes, that's a good example!

June 24, 2018

This skill of differenteating between the passé composé and imparfait takes time to develop, and will come with familiarity with reading and writing, but basically here are the rules: Passé Composé: Describes an occurence that had a beginning and ending point. For example, "Elle m'a dit d'apporter un parapluie" (She told me to bring an umbrella) In this sentence, there was a point at which this person (elle) started speaking to you, and finished her sentence, therefore giving it a frame of time, thus the use of the passé composé. Imparfait: Describes and occurence which has no concrete beginning or ending point. For example, "C'était un affiche qui disait aux étudiants d'éviter les drogues" (It was a poster that told the students to avoid drugs) Posters don't literally "say" things aloud, and thus there is no frame of time for this version of 'dire'.

June 24, 2018

One of the course contributors posted the following link, look for "Difference Between Passé Composé and Imparfait":

I've found it to be helpful.

June 24, 2018

btw is it true that for être and avoir you can always use imparfait regardless of whether the action was completed?

June 25, 2018

Yes, LICA98 , it is true :)

June 25, 2018

At level 2, you haven't even started the course.

Please do your lessons one after another, read the Tips & Notes and the sentence discussion forums, where you will get tailored explanations in context.

June 26, 2018

If you "ate" a sandwich, that's Passé Composé. But if you "were eating" a sandwich and the phone rang; "manger" is Imparfait and "sonner" is Passé Composé.

June 28, 2018

Be careful about assuming there is a 1:1 map between the English and French tenses (as your comment suggests). There are details you may have not encountered yet.

From the imperfect class notes:

"Translating the past tense between English and French can be difficult because there is no simple mapping between the English past tenses and the two main French past tenses, the imparfait and the passé composé (taught in the next unit). When choosing a tense, pay close attention to what you're trying to express."

And additional info here:

June 28, 2018
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