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Help? After being on Duolingo for a while, there are a couple concepts I’m now less sure about...

I took two years of French in high school and got a minor in French in college, but I still struggled listening and communicating verbally in French. I could read and write well, and after my phonetics course, I could speak it very well, too. Of course, none of this history is really necessary to understand my question, but I thought I’d establish the amount of French I knew before coming to Duolingo.

So, a few years ago, I got on Duolingo, and things have progressed quite well. I say that I’ve learned a lot more about French: my listening skills have exponentially improved, and I am able to carry on a conversation much more easily. In fact, I’ve really cemented my existing knowledge.

Well, almost all of my existing knowledge. There are a couple things (probably more but just these two off the top of my head) that I feel that I’m more confused about than ever before: (1) when to use imparfait vs. passé composé and (2) when to use penser (que) vs croire (que). I thought I knew these two things quite well, but after more and more exercises on Duolingo, I’m not quite sure anymore.

So, here I am. I need some clarification on these two things because I’m no longer sure of their use cases.

July 21, 2020



I’m only part of the way through your post (reading the content of the first link), but I had to come back to comment and say that it REALLY is a very good webpage for the question I was asking! Thanks!


Unfortunately, croire and penser only temporary got cleared up for me. I followed one of the links on the webpage you linked above (https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/croire-penser.21560/) and got even more confused since various commenters seem to be literally contradicting one another. I’m afraid I’m even more lost.


Mon ami, s'il y réfléchissait un français se poserait les mêmes questions, mais il le parle tous les jours et il fait les mêmes fautes que vous et il n'y fait pas attention. Pour ce qui est de penser, j'y ai réfléchi et je ne sais qu'en penser... C'est à force de parler que les différences se font, rien d'inquiétant à ne pas avoir tout compris précisément. Quant aux temps du passé, c'est un peu pareil, je parlais français, j'ai parlé français les deux se disent et veulent dire à peu prés la même chose. Si vous avez un doute vous pouvez préciser votre pensée, j'ai parlé français mais je ne le parle plus, je parlais français mais je ne le parle plus. Tout cela n'est vraiment pas important, prenez du plaisir a apprendre le français, le parfait n'existe pas . Bon courage à tous


Je suis française et j'apprends moi-même sur ma propre langue en en apprenant d'autres, et en essayant d'expliquer certaines choses qui comme vous le dîtes, sont des automatismes chez nous. Mais je ne suis pas d'accord pour le sujet des temps du passé et je trouve que c'est un sujet intéressant à creuser pour un étranger, et pour nous, pour presque deviner pourquoi nous les utilisons ou pourquoi non.


Thank you, all! (Merci à tous ! )

I think the conclusion I’m coming to based on your advice and other evidence is that I need to read more in French rather than depending primarily on exercises to help my learning. Much like with mathematics, memorizing rules can be very helpful, but the learning occurs primarily when those rules are applied in practice and in examples, especially on the boundaries between ideas and with corner cases. (I would translate/write the above also into French, but I’m still not certain if penser or croire is correct here. Also, I’m being lazy and am running late for work.) Merci encore !


I’m not sure if anyone has ever said this before (possibly because it’s nonsense—philosophical or otherwise), but it’s my new expression:

« Je pense, donc je crois et je pense parce que je crois. »

Perhaps this is better?

« Je pense, donc je crois, et parce que je crois, je pense. »

I wasn’t sure if the grammatical structure and punctuation of the latter would be correct.

Then again perhaps the problem is verb tense?

« Je pense, donc je crois, et parce que je croyais, je pense. »

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