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  5. "She lost her dress; the gues…

"She lost her dress; the guests were embarrassed."

Translation:Elle a perdu sa robe, les invités étaient gênés.

April 9, 2020



How does one lose one's dress, and why should the guests be embarrassed??


I agree that this kind of sentence is confusing for a learner and regrets having answered your question (answer than I deleted).


Actually, I came across a different set of hints for "gene" later in the lesson, where it was translated as "uncomfortable". That meaning makes much more sense in this sentence - sure, guests would probably be uncomfortable, if someone present is without a dress!


But it's she who should be embarrassed. They should be vastly entertained that she lost her dress and still came out with nothing on or in something else and didn't care. Or with a goat.


This sentence suggests cause and effect, so isn't the passé composé the better choice here ?


You understood well.

Also, the "passé composé" generally relates an event, unexpected action, and answers the question "what happened"?

In complex sentences the difference between the two tenses is highlighted by indicators. For the "passé composé": alors, soudain, à ce moment-là, puis, aussitôt, ensuite...

Ex: "Il était en colère, alors il a préféré quitter la pièce."

Edit. In sustained language, in writing, the time of the "passé simple" instead of passé composé: Il était en colère, alors il quitta la pièce.


Thanks. The indicator "alors" clearly shows a cause and effect relationship and it really brought the point home for me. I assume "donc" also belongs to that list. You gave a very useful example with "a préféré" indicating a completed action as a reaction (or effect) of his being angry. I assume this would also apply to vouloir : "...alors il a voulu quitter la pièce." He was angry, and that caused him to want to leave the room.

Am I right in saying that an indicator isn't needed in a case where there is no clear cause - effect, but there was a completed action ? Example: Paul a voulu nager aujourd'hui. - Paul wanted to (and did) swim today. If the imparfait is used, Paul just was wanting to swim and nobody knows if he swam or not.
I've seen passé simple in literature including children's literature, but I have also heard it used in spoken language. I assume it is used mostly for effect or possibly because the passé composé might be too "wordy" in some complex sentences. Is that right ?
I reported and commented on this exercise and a similar one elsewhere. Duo : Please change the above sentence to the passé composé.


When there are two events, states, or actions in the same sentence, also try to compare the duration of each event/state/action.

"She lost her dress" is a one-time past and complete action, hence the past simple tense and the passé composé (it could have been "elle perdit sa robe" in the passé simple as well).

"The guests were embarrassed": this is a state and not an action, of which duration could vary, depending on what happened once she lost her dress: did she walk around half-naked? did someone bring something to cover her up? We don't know, but the feeling of embarrassment probably was longer than the dress took to fall down.

Before you translate a verb in the past simple tense, please think about its English "status": stative or dynamic? Such a distinction does not exist with French verbs and the imperfect works for all verbs.

For this sentence, here are the options you had:

  • Elle a perdu sa robe, les invité(e)s ont été gêné(e)s (briefly) / les invité(e)s furent gêné(e)s (briefly) / les invité(e)s étaient gêné(e)s (when it happened and after).

  • Elle perdit sa robe, les invité(e)s (en) furent gêné(e)s (briefly) / les invité(e)s étaient gêné(e)s (when it happened and after).


Thanks. Your insight is always appreciated and my comment below is simply for clarification. Please respond. Your comments remind me that correct grammar in romance languages can depend on what the speaker intends to communicate.
My comments below only refer to the passé composé vs the imparfait within the context of Duo's example sentence in this exercise.
As you say, "embarrassed" generally describes a state of being and is not an action itself, but I see the sentence in this exercise as one that indicates a -change in state that was caused by the woman's losing her dress. That change is a one-time action of short duration that calls for the passé composé. Unfortunately, this is open to interpretation because we can't read the speaker's mind. If I understood your comment correctly, you are saying that French (like other romance languages) allows the speaker the choice of either tense depending on what he or she wants to emphasize. With the two phrases in the example in such close proximity, it just looks like a cause - effect situation to me. I base my comments on the following quote from a university website: "While verbs describing mental and emotional states in the past are often in the imparfait, they can be put in the passé composé when one wishes to signal a change or a reaction:

Quand le serpent lui est tombé sur la tête, il a eu peur. (When the snake fell on his head, he was frightened.)" (from: https://www.carleton.edu/french/resources/language-tools/grammar/passe_compose/P Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks again.

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