1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "Vous faisiez un gâteau."

"Vous faisiez un gâteau."

Translation:You were making a cake.

August 30, 2013



I know this issue has come up in other questions, but does someone have a brilliantly clear explanation why both "You made a cake" and "You were making a cake" are examples of the past imperfect tense? Thank you!!

  • 2028

We have recently seen Duo trying to improve this section but there are still some problems. Many of them stem from carry-overs from accepting a simple past tense translation instead of the french Imperfect Past. The several past tenses in French are not equivalent and are neither used the same way nor do they translate in English to the same words. At the risk of beating this issue to death, here are the five criteria for using the imperfect tense:

  • An action was going on in the past at the same time as another action

  • An action was going on in the past when another action occurred

  • An action that a person did habitually in the past

  • A description of a mental or physical condition in the past

  • An action or state of being that occurred in the past and lasted for a certain length of time prior to another past action.

The problems come about here with the use of brief sentences which often do not meet the conditions for use of the imperfect tense without trying to imagine some scenario where it could work. We have rich imaginations and can suppose that some (unspoken) action may have been taking place that justifies the use of the imperfect tense, but often, the passé composé would be a better choice.


Thank you for such an excellent, clear reply! The breakdown of the five criteria helps a lot.


Your contributions to this site are indispensable and thoroughly appreciated! Mange tak - as we say in Danish. By the way: do you entertain a site of your own - or have recommendations pertaining the "department" of (learning) French on the net?

  • 2028

You are very kind and I thank you for the compliment. My exploration into the world of French centers around Duolingo although there are many valuable tools available on the internet which are indispensable. I have numerous books which have been helpful, especially Barron's 501 French Verbs. Here are just a few of my favorite on-line resources:


Thank you, n6zs, for the links!


Give for each use an example. You would be more understood.

  • 2028

Here are examples of each of the uses of l'Imparfait de l'indicatif:

  • An action was going on in the past at the same time as another action. Example: Il lisait pendant que j'écrivais = He was reading while I was writing.

  • An action was going on in the past when another action occurred. Example: Il lisait quand je suis entré = He was reading when I came in.

  • An action that a person did habitually in the past. Example: Nous allions à la plage tous les jours = We used to go to the beach every day.

  • A description of a mental or physical condition in the past. Example: Il était triste quand je l'ai vu = He was sad when I saw him. Quand ma mère était jeune, elle était belle = When my mother was young, she was beautiful.

  • An action or state of being that occurred in the past and lasted for a certain length of time prior to another past action. Example: J'attendais l'autobus depuis dix minutes quand il est arrivé = I had been waiting for the bus for ten minutes when it arrived.

  • Source: Barron's 501 French Verbs


This is golden. Thank you very much.


bahlaek, please say please and thank you when you ask (not tell) someone to do a favor for you. This is required in both French and English. Thank you!


Hi! Thanks for your explanation. Just for the sake of clarity, though, is another action is that is happening or is to happen implied when imparfait is used, and if so, when such an action is absent, would you always use passé compose?


As usual your knowledge is very gratefully received, but I have a question regarding a nuance. In English , 'I used to make' and 'I was making' carry different meanings. Yet the imperfect here is translated as 'used to' in a number of cases. Is there a distinction? ' I used to make cakes when you came to visit.' and 'I was making a cake when you came to visit' are quite different in English.


The English simple past can almost always have "imperfective aspect," depending on context. "I made a cake whenever I felt like it." That's still the English simple past, but it clearly needs the French imperfect. "I made a cake and then I ate it." That clearly needs either the passe simple or the passe composé. (If you really want single sentences: "When I felt sad, what did I do? I made a cake.")

Duolingo needs to accept the English simple past as a translation for the French imperfect in all ambiguous cases. Accepting the past continuous is okay (I was making a cake) but that's really just another way of signalling the context. The real truth here is that Duolingo should have chosen examples that contained more context in the first place, since we don't learn as much from ambiguous examples. (Again, it's not ambiguous in the French; it's the English that's ambiguous.)


My thoughts exactly. The choice of one or the other tense is often driven by other clauses in the sentence, so I think it would be better practice if those clauses were included.


To include more context might double the typing we do as well as the time to finish lessons. I'm not sure I would like that.


I am pretty sure they are wrong on all of these... Sitesurf seems to agree

  • 2028

In the absence of any context, the most natural translation would be that of an action that was taking place at a time in the past, i.e., You were making a cake. Having said that, note that the imperfect tense is usually used when the action was occurring and then it was "interrupted" by another action. Because of this, the first action is sometimes referred to as "continuing" or "lasting", which means that it was not an instantaneous or point-in-time action, but one which was in progress at some point in the past. It then forms the basis for saying, (and while that was happening) something else happened. Example: Nous regardions la télévision quand elle est arrivée. = We were watching television when she arrived. The first action is in imperfect past because it was in progress (continuing/lasting) when the second action occurred. The second action is in Passé composé because it was a point-in-time action that occurred while the first action was taking place. You could also have two actions taking place at the same time; this would require the imperfect past tense for both actions. Example: Je regardais la télévision quand elle lisait un livre. = I was watching television when she was reading a book.

As to Duolingo's sentence above, it is not a correct use of the Imperfect to refer to a single action in the past, ongoing or not, such as, "Il lisait un livre." In such case, the Passé Composé should be used. It has been a challenging process to introduce reforms to such issues in that incorrect or seemingly arbitrary use of tenses has been in place for some time. It is tedious and requires much understanding and patience on both sides of the issue. While changes are taking place, there will inevitably be times when someone will complain, "You have always accepted this answer before and now you say it is wrong. What is going on?" The answer is that we are trying to make a repair to the vehicle while it is in motion. These challenges are not small and are complicated by the fact that a specific verb tense in French does not necessarily correspond directly to a specific verb tense in English. This is quite a deep subject and I apologize for the length of my comment.


I think, N6ZS, that it would be WONDERFUL and wonderous to have Lakhota language and Navaho and some others begin to be part of such a format. There are a few speakers left and Lakhota which I have some time into is a wonderful language with infixes. And since it is not based on latin but is not diffucult to feel ones way into, because it is a VERB language rather than a THING language with infixes, that it will fascinate and give a really new perceptual experience to people that I myself value above others. The french got along quite well with many tribes and they seemed in many ares to by sypatico. If you think there is interest on line to provide that service to native people who had their languages taken in boarding schools with punishment for using them during "mainstreaming", then there are several people I could find who might suggest moderators for this. I studied with a Lakota man who spoke 23 languages enough to translate some for the government. He spoke basque. It is a brain joy to learn on ones own with friends like this. At a Tayospaye workshop with a communications expert, I met a man who was the very last speaker of his language. He seemed so lonely. He had world he could hardly invite someone into with ease. All in his head...nobody to share it with.

  • 2028

So sad to hear of that poor man, Marie. I am only a moderator for the French/English course so I don't influence what languages Duolingo decides to take on. Send your suggestion to Remy@duolingo.com. He is our team leader. Perhaps he can steer you in the right direction.


This is a great idea to help preserve dying languages and continue to teach others the language!

Please let us know how this goes Marie, if you talk to Remy and the Duolingo people. I will follow this conversation.

They even may be able to get a grant in the USA, if they need funds to create these by organizations try to help preserve these languages, or just crowd funding.


Thanks for encouragement. First I will check out interest with a couple of people. It's there if one can find it. The benefit is to young Lakhota or Native speakers who want to learn their language more fully or in the first place after being discouraged from using it at a crisis point in the last century.


This has helped clear up a lot of confusion I had with the difference between passé composé and the imparfait. Thank you! This is clearly a subject worth more study as obviously all the past reading I have done has not brought out the fine points you just did. Merci beaucoup !


You are fantastic!!! THANK YOU!!!! This has been very confusing for me. But reading your posts above have really helped in starting to 'clear the fog' so to speak. ;))


i am resigned to the fact that my peculiar phrasings will always cause me to sound like a silly foreigner, maybe even sexy.


French accents sound sexy to English speakers, but I'm not sure it works the other way.


You used to make a cake should be acceptable


I reported it. BTW I don't know what 'You all made a cake' means, which Duo offered me as a correction.


"You all" is just "you" plural. Or if you come from/live in the south in America, it gets used a lot in conversation, speaking to one AND/OR some. Like an idiom. "Y'all wouldn't believe what they did." "See you all later." Or "See y'all later." HTH.


Thanks, but .. I mean, it seems irrelevant whether the cake-maker is plural. Whereas habitual cake-making seems common. Simple, really. [And : I'd say 'You all' is unheard outside the US South]


Yes. I live in Texas now and I hear it and use the expression "you all", but it seems to be very poor English grammar - a regional colloquialism at best. I thought duolingo was better at this.


I can assure you that, here in the deep south at least, "ya'll" is perfectly good grammar.


I wrote 'you used to make a cake' and duo marked it wrong; I thought that fit within past imperfect because it means it was a continuing action that was interrupted. Can anyone explain why or was this duo's mistake?


You don't usually use continuous tense that way. "I made a cake." You might use continuous tense with the plural and no article . "I used to make cakes until I lost my job at the bakery."


Bump. Still not accepted. Still curious about it.


What about 'You did a cake', is it correct?


Doing a cake in English does not mean to make a cake. It'd be more like something out of American Pie..


It sounds vaguely gross.


You wouldn't really say that.

  • 2028

The verb "faire" is the third most frequent verb in the French language. It is used in so many different ways so it has meanings that are far beyond "to do". In English, one does not "do" a cake, you "make" it.


your correct answer says - you ALL made a cake. Where is the ALL in that phrase???


This pinged me as giving correct pronounciation before I had even said the word "gateau"!!


Yes, Duolingo does that frequently. At least, it's not counting it wrong!


I think "you prepared a cake" is also right.


French has "préparer", which translates to "prepare" and is applicable in the context of cooking, so, without an overwhelming reason to do so, I wouldn't use it here.


Greg & Frame, thank you. "i made a cake" is okay, i don't know why i got an incorrect mark?


It isn't ok. The French sentence says "vous", which means "you", not "I".


How do I hear the diffrence between"faisiez" and "faites".


You just need some practice in "tuning your ear". They really are quite different. "Faisiez" has a distinct "z" sound in the middle; "faites" has a distinct "t".

http://www.acapela-group.com/ Choose a French voice - I like "Bruno". Put Vous faisiez; vous faîtes in the box and click on "listen!". Try different voices. You may notice that "Antoine" pronounces "faîtes" with two syllables. I'm told this is a southern accent in French. .


you just gave me the best website to mess around on


Whatever about the tense, the verb should be "preparer" in French. The use of "faire" in the context of making food is wrong.

  • 2028

The Larousse Dictionary differs with you. Among the hundreds of uses for the verb "faire" are included:

  • [ - repas, café] to make, to prepare
  • [ - gâteau, pain] to make, to bake

Source: http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais-anglais/faire/32616


Et il est tombe. Je suis desole, Duo. :/


Why "You used to make a cake" is wrong when Imparfait indicates a habitual action also.


it gave the answer to me as you baked a cake here it says you were making a cake and I put you prepared a cake...


This could be "used to."


I was marked wrong for you had made a cake and the correct translation was: You all made a cake. What the heck? There is no "all" in this sentence.


There is in the sense that the plural 2nd person in English is often made explicit as "you all". It doesn't have to be explicit in the French.


e đã chọn đúng mà máy báo em sai??? em ko cap được màn hình máy tính vì ở đây ko có tính năng chèn ảnh???


What is wrong with saying "used to"??


I got it wrong with "You prepared a cake." Should or should this not be an acceptable translation?


For a second I thought it was"you were doing a cat" because I confused gato(cat in spanish) and gâteau


Is "preparing"' instead of "making" also okay"?


Sounds a bit peculiar to me - as if you already had a cake and you were getting it ready for something. (A top hat? A shot of whisky? A pep talk? haha)

Inconsistently, "preparing a meal" is ok for "making a meal".


What does it mean by,"were"? Did something happen to the cake?


if im not mistakes faisiez is the past tense for do. But i though it was faites? please can someone explain??????????????????


Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.