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Imperfect or Perfect Tense but not both?

BarrieB2Kwiziq community member

Imperfect or Perfect Tense but not both?

I have great difficulty in deciding whether to use l'imperfait or parfait in translations and am surprised to see that both are acceptable in the sentence 'He wrote beautiful lyrics'. The imperfect is the preferred translation but the perfect is given as an alternative translation.

Asked 2 months ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Barrie,

Chris's explanation is great! As he explained, it depends on where you stand as a narrator / speaker. Here are a few examples to supplement Chris's great answer:

- If you are looking back at the writing as something completed -> Passé Composé

Il a écrit de belles paroles = He wrote beautiful lyrics

- If you are looking at the writing as a process that used to be happening regularly (emphasis on duration), i.e. a past action seen as a regular event -> Imparfait

Il écrivait de belles paroles = He used to write beautiful lyrics

 

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

It depends on what the emphasis of the speaker is on. If it is the duration, the prolonged act of writing, then you'd use imparfait. On the other hand, if you focus on the completed act of his writing, the completion of it, then you cast it in perfect tense.

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Present tense is often used as 'historical' tense in French, unlike in English. I haven't done this exercise, but as it is A2, and given the indicated topics to be covered, I would be surprised if the 'expectation' was that it be written as an historical piece, but not wrong to do so. 

You can get a feel for the use of the present tense in this context by looking at the piece on Brel in French Wikipedia. Have a look at the section "Jeunesse" for instance.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Brelhttps://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/historical-tenses/

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Brelhttps://french.kwiziq.com/questions/view/using-the-present-tense-like-the-past

Imperfect or Perfect Tense but not both?

I have great difficulty in deciding whether to use l'imperfait or parfait in translations and am surprised to see that both are acceptable in the sentence 'He wrote beautiful lyrics'. The imperfect is the preferred translation but the perfect is given as an alternative translation.

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