Correct tense for "were welcomed"

Answered! Jump to accepted answer.


Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

3 replies

Correct tense for "were welcomed"

"The students were welcomed by the headteacher this morning." Why is this translated by the passé composé rather than the imperfect tense?

This question relates to:
French lesson "Forming La Voix Passive with compound tenses (passive voice)"


Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017


Bonjour Steve, Here is a very similar phrase using l'imparfait: Les étudiants étaient accueillis par le directeur tous les ans. ---> The students were welcomed by the headteacher every year. In this phrase, l'imparfait is used in the passive voice because it is a habit by the headteacher, he/she does this yearly. Here is the lesson that explains this: Expressing habits or repeated actions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)%252Fsearch%253Fs%253Dl%252527imparfait On the other hand, the phrase in question: Les étudiants ont été accueillis par le directeur ce matin. --> The students were welcomed by the headteacher this morning. is a once and done phrase, hence the use of le passé composé in the passive voice. J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait. Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet Ron (also a non-native speaker)


Kwiziq community member

23 October 2017


Just to expound a bit on Ron's explanation: Take the sentence: "As he was welcoming the students, his phone rang." Here the welcoming part is an ongoing process during which the phone rings. Therefore you would use imparfait for the welcoming part and passé composé for the ringing: Alors qu'il accueillait les étudiants, la téléphone a sonné.


Kwiziq language super star

19 March 2018


If I may just add, Steve, the passé composé indicates an action in the past which is finished. The imparfait gives a sense of duration to the action and is often translated by 'was/were , being/doing ...'

In this case,

The headmaster welcomed the students in the morning ( active voice):

Le directeur a accueilli les étudiants ce matin.

or as in the text, 

The students were welcomed by the headmaster in the morning ( passive voice):

Les étudiants ont été accueillis par le directeur ce matin.

This is the same action viewed from different perspectives but in both cases the passé composé is used and we are assuming that the action has taken place earlier in the day.

Hope this helps!

Your answer

Login to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Think you've got all the answers?

Test your French to the CEFR standard

find your French level »
I'll be right with you...