Imparfait vs. Passé composé

Wyn RonB1Kwiziq community member

Imparfait vs. Passé composé

I have having problems figuring out when I need to use imparfait in my conversations. For example, I understand that imparfait is used when expressing a thought that took place in the past. So does that mean every thought that I had in the past is put into imparfait?
Asked 4 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Bonjour Wyn Ron !

Aaah the eternal question ;)
Knowing when to use L'Imparfait versus Le Passé Composé can indeed be complicated for learners, so here are some guidelines:

-> Imparfait is used to express:
- a habit in the past = used to
- a continuous action in the past = was doing
- to describe a past state or situation = it was
- after "si" in hypothetical statements = if I had

-> Passé Composé is used to express:
- a past action with a clear beginning and end in the past = did
- a brief action in the past

Here are links to our related lessons for more examples :
Expressing continuing action with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing continuing action with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing continuing action with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing continuing action with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
Expressing past habits or repeated actions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing past habits or repeated actions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing past habits or repeated actions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Expressing past habits or repeated actions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
Describing and expressing opinions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Describing and expressing opinions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Describing and expressing opinions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)">Describing and expressing opinions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/l-imparfait-usage-in-hypothetical-clauses-introduced-by-si-if-followed-by-le-conditionnel-present
and
Using the compound tense (Le Passé Composé) on its own or with the imperfect tense (L'Imparfait)">Using the compound tense (Le Passé Composé) on its own or with the imperfect tense (L'Imparfait)">Using the compound tense (Le Passé Composé) on its own or with the imperfect tense (L'Imparfait)">Using the compound tense (Le Passé Composé) on its own or with the imperfect tense (L'Imparfait)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !
Wyn RonB1Kwiziq community member
Bonjour Aurelie, merci de votre aide. For example, I want to say the airplane was on time, when I am in conversation with a friend whom asked me "how was your vacation?". Do I say? Le vol était à l'heure (this described the situation) or Le vol a été à l'heure (this action had a beginning and an end in the past) Wyn
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Wyn Ron ! In that case, it's a description, so you will use L'Imparfait :) Bonne journée !

Imparfait vs. Passé composé

I have having problems figuring out when I need to use imparfait in my conversations. For example, I understand that imparfait is used when expressing a thought that took place in the past. So does that mean every thought that I had in the past is put into imparfait?

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