passécomp usage vs imparfait

AnnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

passécomp usage vs imparfait

For "Je les connaissais par coeur" the reason for the imparfait was a habitual activity, but I have trouble with seeing that as a habit. To me that is done and that's it. I used passé comp....can you help me understand what they mean by a habit in this case.

Asked 1 week ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Ann, 

It can only be the imparfait in this passage as you are reminiscing over a particular lengthy period of life and the child of that time knew his/her constellations by heart .

Also the verb 'connaître' as 'savoir' indicate duration, when you know something, you know it  - if you know what I mean !

I have been racking my brain to think of an example when you would use the passé composé with 'connaître/savoir quelque chose par cœur' and here is the following:

Imagine a child being tested by a teacher for his times tables, the mother asks him/her how it went and the child answer, "Very well, I knew them by heart" -

"Très bien, je les ai sus par cœur"

in other words, at that specific point in time.

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

If you look at the context, you see "used to..." and "would go out...", which points to habits being related, the "backdrop of the story" being told. In English it might have been clearer if it had been "used to know...".

In my understanding (and I would appreciate if a native speaker could chime in on that), both imparfait and passé composé are possible, with a slight difference in meaning:

Je les connaissais par coeur. -- I used to know them by heart.
Je les ai connues par coeur. -- I knew them by heart.

The first sentence uses the statement as a general statement in the past which sets the mood and scene. It emphasises the duration of the act. The second sentence kind of stresses the fact that you once knew them and don't know them today anymore

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I would say that using savoir or connaître in the passé composé puts the emphasis on the point at which you learned something or became acquainted with someone/something. I think you would translate it as "I got to know them by heart".

passécomp usage vs imparfait

For "Je les connaissais par coeur" the reason for the imparfait was a habitual activity, but I have trouble with seeing that as a habit. To me that is done and that's it. I used passé comp....can you help me understand what they mean by a habit in this case.

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