est toujours resté

AndreaB2Kwiziq community member

est toujours resté

Why is this in the past tense? I thought it was ongoing and background information, and so used imparfait (which was incorrect).  Thanks in advance.

Asked 6 days ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Andrea,

This is a very interesting question! Alan and Chris both make really good points.

In this context, you can see the description as someone giving an obituary for example.

 

Il est toujours resté fidèle à ses idéaux = He always stayed true to his ideals -> Passé Composé

→ The person saying this is focusing on the fact that the single action of “staying true to one’s ideals” is completed and done with now – result: he doesn’t anymore because he’s passed away

Il restait toujours fidèle à ses idéaux He always stayed true to his ideals -> Imparfait

 → The person is describing a situation / setting a scene / no clear end or beginning

 

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Andrea,

You will note that "rester" is being used with être.

So an enduring "state" is being expressed  --  a "state" of remaining as an enduring memory.

I can see where your query is coming from but this is not an Imperfect situation that would be described using "was" or "were" or "would" as if a habitual past regular activity.

I hope this helps --  bonne continuation

Jim

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The use of the French imperfect tense closely parallels the use of the English -ing (continuous) form. Ask yourself what you would use in English:

He always remained Corsican. -- Il est toujours resté corse.
He was always remaining Corsican.
-- Il restait toujours corse.

Clearly, in English you would use simple past tense and not continuous past. Similarly, in French you use passé composé and not imparfait.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I wish it were that simple, Chris. Unfortunately the simple past tense is also frequently translated as the imperfect. In fact the most common translation of restait is "remained", and vice-versa. 

https://context.reverso.net/translation/french-english/restait

https://context.reverso.net/translation/english-french/remained

Perhaps the reason that the passé composé is used here is that we have an action with a clear end - when he dies.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I agree, it's never simple. No "rule" is 100% accurate. But the continuous form in English is a valuable guide. In my opinion more valuable than the often drummed rule of "continuous action" or "background description". I haven't seen this instance of grammatical parallelism used to explain so many uses of the French imperfect. 

However, the verb rester, in particular, is an often ambiguous with frequently both options being possible.

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Andrea - worth looking at the linked YouTube clip from Hugo Cotton. The use of 'toujours' here is a strong clue to the need for passé composé. 

Look at advanced use cases for passé composé from just before the 14 minute mark, although I would recommend watching the whole clip, as it is excellent.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rpQ5xeFneg

est toujours resté

Why is this in the past tense? I thought it was ongoing and background information, and so used imparfait (which was incorrect).  Thanks in advance.

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