Imparfait vs Le Passé Composé for Être

Imparfait vs Le Passé Composé for Être

Can you explain how to decide whether to use imparfait or le passé composé for être? If I understand it correctly, imparfait is for past events of some duration or past states of existence while le passé composé is for bounded one-off past events.

Above is this example:

L'année dernière, j'ai été vraiment malade.

But if one was sick for most of the year, or even for some months, wouldn't it be:

L'année dernière, j'étais vraiment malade.

So, am I right in thinking the example sentence means something like "I had an episode of grave illness last year"?

Similarly, there is this example above:

Avez-vous été marié?

But being married is, except in extreme cases where there is a divorce immediately after the marriage, being married is an event of some duration.

So, why wouldn't it be:

Étiez-vous marié?

Unless the question is, simply, "have you ever had a marriage ceremony" (which would be a bounded event rather than a state of existence of some duration). But people don't really ask that.

Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

Asked 3 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Pattrice,

in your first example:

L'année dernière, j'ai été vraiment malade,  it implies that you are better now so the action is completed.

However,  if you said -

L'année dernière quand j'étais malade je ne suis pas sorti de la maison pendant trois semaines.

You are zooming into that period of the past and whilst you were being ill you didn't go out for three weeks 

If you ask the question :

Avez-vous été marié?  

it would indicate that the person you are asking this to, is on her own and you want to find out whether they were ever married or always single.

But if you say -

Vous étiez (déjà)  marié en 1985 quand je vous ai rencontré? 

you are enquiring whether someone (you know has been married) was indeed married when you met them.

Not easy to explain but all to do with context and what meaning you are trying to convey...

Hope this helps!

 

 

Hi Pattrice, the question you ask is a good one and has been asked before several times (and also generated some useful answers). Have you looked in lessons dealing with imparfait in general?

Yes, I have reviewed those lessons. That is why I asked the question, to get expert clarification. I have seen answers from various community members who may or may not be sufficiently expert for me to trust their opinion on this subtle question. I was hoping for an answer from a staff member, but perhaps that is not how this paid service works.

Imparfait vs Le Passé Composé for Être

Can you explain how to decide whether to use imparfait or le passé composé for être? If I understand it correctly, imparfait is for past events of some duration or past states of existence while le passé composé is for bounded one-off past events.

Above is this example:

L'année dernière, j'ai été vraiment malade.

But if one was sick for most of the year, or even for some months, wouldn't it be:

L'année dernière, j'étais vraiment malade.

So, am I right in thinking the example sentence means something like "I had an episode of grave illness last year"?

Similarly, there is this example above:

Avez-vous été marié?

But being married is, except in extreme cases where there is a divorce immediately after the marriage, being married is an event of some duration.

So, why wouldn't it be:

Étiez-vous marié?

Unless the question is, simply, "have you ever had a marriage ceremony" (which would be a bounded event rather than a state of existence of some duration). But people don't really ask that.

Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

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