Translation:We were not familiar with that place.
We used not to know this place. Really! Every French book I have ever read has stated the imparfait can not be translated literally. So why are they doing it here. For those trying to learn English from this (god forbid) there are several grammatically and non-nonsensical examples below.
We did not know this place (but not we do).
I used to know this place (but now I do not).
We used to come here but now I do not know it (very well).
"used to" is actually and idiom so it has some limitations. Can not be used with certain verbs such as know, born, die, etc.
Don't worry, the people here are learning French and already know English. The "machine" does the literal substitutions and we report when they are nonsense and Duolingo adjusts. Thus "we did not know that place" is accepted, and the "we used not to know this place" is on its way out :)
Try switching to the subscription "Learning English - I know French" and you'll see the English being taught is correct.
Although some people become rather confused as English is already their second language and these kind of quirky sentences do not help either the learning of French or it's optimal translation to English. However duolingo is not available in Dutch-French modus so we'll somehow manage to clear our befuddles brains by means of explanations like mercierbikes', ;)
Very nicely-explained 'mercierbikes' When we talk about past habits or facts in English that do NOT apply now, we distinguish between:
1- Action verbs: I didn't use to/ wouldn't play football. (But now I do)
2- Mental and Emotion verbs like: 'I didn't use to know him/her or this place. (But now I do and I go regularly to it with my friends)
Why is "We didn't use to know that place" wrong? "Tu ne connaissais pas ça" was translated to "you didn't use to know that." What is the difference? What am I missing?
Also, I understand why you can't say "used to" or "didn't use to" with to die or to be born since those are one-time only events, but why can't it be used with know?
There is something unbalanced about your English sentence. What's throwing it off is the negative aspect, the "not".
First, the second part of the verb would be "used to know", not "use to know". Secondly, even if you were to put it all together "You did not used to know that place" is awkward, at best. If you wanted to keep the same general atmosphere, you might translate it to "You used to not know that place."... Which implies now you do know it.. However, it might be correct but that's not how people speak in everyday English. Personally, I would say it that way, but most people would just say "you didn't know that place" again, implying now you do. I'm not very good at translating, so every time I do, I have to make the literal translation in my head, then figure out what they're trying to say by trying to capture the mood of the passage. Your last question is why can't it be used with "know" is a good one. It can be, but the negative is throwing off the translation. "You used to know that" is a perfectly good English sentence. "You didn't used to know that" is correct but verges on nonsensical. But then again, "you used to not know that" is ok.
I think that "We didn't use to know that place." and "We wouldn't know that place." should be accepted. In the same sense as the following (which is correct, to the best of knowledge):
"Nous visitions chaque semaine" = "We visited every week." OR "We USED TO visit every week." OR "We WOULD visit every week.".
This is in the Tips & Notes. It says that for repeated actions and habits, we can also use constructions with USED TO or WOULD. I seriously don't get why everyone keeps saying that it's wrong to use WOULD and/or USED TO when it works perfectly fine in some sentences AND they're used in examples in the Tips & Notes for this skill AND they make prefect sense in English. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong some how. :)
You can use "used to" with an action verb when talking about habitual or repeated actions, but it does not work so well with stative verbs much of the time. In this situation, we would be more likely to say, "we were not acquainted/familiar with that place" and avoid "used to".
YahiaEssam, in other words:
- We used to know that place very well = Now we do not know it that well
That sentence is about a former habit that is implied ("we knew that place very well because we went there often, and knew the people who worked there" for example) . But in this exercise, it is not about a former habit, it is about a state of things, i.e. a "non knowledge", a degree of ignorance that was true before but is not anymore, as you speak.
So not only the type of verb, i.e. "to know", which does not refer to repeated actions, but also the negative, both aspects make it so that it does not sound correct to say "We didn't use to know this place". It could work in such case:
- I didn't use to go to that place
because "to go" is an action verb. Still, using the negative would rather occur if, say, you answered to someone by "denying" what they said ("Hey, you used to go there, right ?") or meaning it was not the case for you (I didn't use to go to that place, unlike you).
In English, we do not say "we were not knowing". There are some verbs that are never or rarely used in a continuous tense. http://esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/g_stative.htm
Nous ne aovins pas connu ce lieu (is the answer to your question)
Your sentence is in the Past Perfect or Pluperfect and it's used to express that an action had already finished in the past before another started and finished too.
Nous ne avions pas connu ce lieu avant que tu nous as dit/vous nous avez dit.
Here's the link to learn it fully, but I think it's too complicated at this stage of learning: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/pastperfect.htm
I hope that answers your question.
Sorry but I need to correct your French examples :
"Nous n'avions pas connu ce lieu" (you must use the apostrophe)
the longer sentence you give sounds really weird. Actually even "nous n'avions pas connu ce lieu" does not sound natural, in a real context we'd probably use "encore" (Nous n'avions pas encore connu ce lieu quand.... / We hadn't known that place yet when...)
Anyway your clause with "avant que" should use a verb in the subjunctive (because in the logic of the speech, the action in the "avant que" hasn't happened yet, so it's part of the "unreal" which demands the subjunctive mode in French). Also the verb should be "parler" and not "dire":
"Nous n'avions pas connu ce lieu avant que tu ne nous en parlasses / avant que tu ne nous en eusses parlé". Now theoretically correct but something's off grammatically (I would simply use imperfect : "Nous ne connaissions pas ce lieu avant que tu ne nous en parles"; it should be "parlasses"/"eusses parlé" but virtually no one speaks in the subjunctive imperfect or past - only in literature and official speeches maybe).
"To know" is a stative verb which does not use continuous tenses: https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/support-files/stative-verbs-list.pdf
"Nous ne connaissions pas" is the more natural translation to/from "we did not know".
However, "nous n'avons pas connu" can translate to either "we did not know" or to "we have not known".