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Kwiziq community member
8 April 2019
Passe compose vs imparfait
I was not well
Yesterday I was not well
She was absent
Yesterday she was absent
These sentences are case of passe compose or imparfait
This question relates to:French lesson "Expressing continuing action in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)"
Kwiziq language super star
Here Richa, we would use the imparfait as the verb 'être' being a verb of state is most often in the imperfect which conveys duration rather than a fleeting moment ...
Hope this helps!
Thank you so much mam for your quick response but, iam totally confused between the two.
I feel with you, Richa. That distinction isn't trivial and goes against the grain of how English uses these two tenses.
The reason you'd use imparfait in these examples lies buried in the fact that we are dealing with the verb être, to be. "Being" describes a state, and a state is considered distinct from an event. Describing states in the past, you use the imparfait. There's this group of verbs which are often used to describe states and, hence, are most often used with the imparfait tense.
Here is a link that explains this aspect further:
But "yesterday" implies a clear beginning and end, which often triggers the passé composé. So you have two competing guidelines, which is why it can be so confusing.
Laura gives the example: "Il a fait froid, hier."
Thanks a lot
@Alan: I know, it can be quite contradictory and confusing at times. I don't think there's a clear distinction and it probably depends on what you want to stress or emphasise. See, e.g., the sentence:
J'étais malade. -- I was sick, vs. J'ai été malade. -- I fell sick. Maybe in this context:
J'étais malade pendant les vacances. -- I was sick during (the entire) vacation. J'ai été malade pendant les vacances. -- I was sick during the vacation (maybe a day out of the entire week).
I wonder if we could get some input on this from a native speaker. Will ask one of my fallback resources. ;)
9 April 2019
Just to add to this excellent debate , the context is very important when deciding which tense to use .
Reflecting on a task that was particularly hard you could use either the imparfait or passé composé to say, ‘That was hard!’
If you say -
C'était dur! = you are reflecting on how hard the task was when you were doing it.
Ça a été dur!= you are reflecting on how hard the task was but that it is now over.
That said, I maintain that you will meet ‘être’ mainly in the imperfect tense...
There's an interesting discussion here, too:
I liked this guideline, which is perhaps similar to Cécile's last reply:
Move on or Dwell on
The passé composé is when you want to mention the action and move on.
The imparfait is when you want to dwell in the action and say what happened in the middle of it.
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