A question about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's now viral French comment on the fire at Notre Dame. Mayor Pete said:

A question about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's now viral French comment on the fire at Notre Dame. Mayor Pete said:

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Question: Why does he say "c’était " instead of "c'est"? After all, Notre Dame a) though damaged still survives (as French President Marcon quickly told us) and b) remains a gift of France to civilization. Thus in Mayor Pete's comment I see no past action or situation, discontinuous or otherwise (except the fire being extinguished), indicated in relation to Notre Dame. 

Consulting "Learn the French Past Tense (Imperfect / Imparfait)" [https://www.thoughtco.com/imperfect-french-past-tense-1368859] none of the 7 listed conditions for using the imparfait seem to apply. 

Is there perhaps an 8th and less commonly understand use of the imparfait, in which people who comment on tragic or emotional events use this verb form to soften the impact of their words, which sounds polite and respectful to a French-listening audience?

Asked 5 months ago
AlanC1Correct answer

I think "cétait" refers to it being "un cadeau" - presumably at some point in the past. It's the same in English, isn't it? For example: "I hate this tie, but it was a present from my wife".

Resending since there seems to be an HTML mark-up problem with my question.

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A question about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's now viral French comment on the fire at Notre Dame. Mayor Pete said:

"Au peuple de France je voudrais dire que la cathédrale Notre Dame, c’était comme un cadeau à l’espèce humaine. Nous partageons la douleur mais nous vous remercions aussi de ce cadeau à la civilisation."

Question: Why does he say "c’était " instead of "c'est"? After all, Notre Dame a) though damaged still survives (as French President Marcon quickly told us) and b) remains a gift of France to civilization. Thus in Mayor Pete's comment I see no past action or situation, discontinuous or otherwise (except the fire being extinguished), indicated in relation to Notre Dame. 

Consulting "Learn the French Past Tense (Imperfect / Imparfait)" [https://www.thoughtco.com/imperfect-french-past-tense-1368859] none of the 7 listed conditions for using the imparfait seem to apply. 

Is there perhaps an 8th and less commonly understand use of the imparfait, in which people who comment on tragic or emotional events use this verb form to soften the impact of their words, which sounds polite and respectful to a French-listening audience?

SimonKwiziq language super star

This is a great question John!  I'll let one of our French experts answer it, but in our next Q&A update we'll have liking on questions I'm sure this would get lots!

Simon, thank you. Looking forward to the follow-up.

Also (aaargh!), a correction to my original post: "Is there perhaps an 8th and less commonly understood use . . ."

A question about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's now viral French comment on the fire at Notre Dame. Mayor Pete said:

<>

Question: Why does he say "c’était " instead of "c'est"? After all, Notre Dame a) though damaged still survives (as French President Marcon quickly told us) and b) remains a gift of France to civilization. Thus in Mayor Pete's comment I see no past action or situation, discontinuous or otherwise (except the fire being extinguished), indicated in relation to Notre Dame. 

Consulting "Learn the French Past Tense (Imperfect / Imparfait)" [https://www.thoughtco.com/imperfect-french-past-tense-1368859] none of the 7 listed conditions for using the imparfait seem to apply. 

Is there perhaps an 8th and less commonly understand use of the imparfait, in which people who comment on tragic or emotional events use this verb form to soften the impact of their words, which sounds polite and respectful to a French-listening audience?

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