past tenses

JenniferC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

past tenses

I wonder - why you said 'j'ai passé (de nombreux après-midis)' when every other past tense is written as the imperfect? Every thing done here was a repeated past action. 

Asked 2 years ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Jennifer,

Here the narrator sees the action of 'spending the afternoons' as a single completed action and not as a part of a descriptive context nor as expressing an opinion.  

Petit, je passais de nombreux après-midis chez mes grand-parents = When I was a child, I used to spend many afternoons at my grand-parents'

-> describing a past habit: Expressing habits or repeated actions in L'Imparfait

Petit, j'ai passé de nombreux après-midis chez mes grand-parents = When I was a child, I spent many afternoons at my grand-parents'

-> seeing the event as a single completed action that has clearly ended in the past: the-french-simple-past-le-passe-compose

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

SiobhanC1Kwiziq community member

J’ai la même question!

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The distinction between imparfait and passé composé is difficult enough for English speakers - and seems even harder when we realise that the choice is sometimes with the speaker/narrator, rather than always 'fixed' by a grammatical rule. 

The 2 links below are to material from 2 very good online French language learning sites - indeed, the second link is also referenced by Hugo in the first. They give different ways to extend understanding and both are very good. The YouTube is in reasonably slow comprehensible French - I suggest trying without subtitles or with French subtitles initially, but English can be used if required. The article from Camille is for English speakers, with an approach to, and practical examples of, the use of passé composé or imparfait, and using them together. Strongly recommended viewing/reading (by me, anyway).

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

https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-verb-conjugation/passe-compose-versus-imparfait/

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The links Maarten gives in his post are really good to expound on the differences between passé composé and imparfait. For English speakers, I find that 80% of the time they already have that knowledge but aren't aware that they do. English uses the continuous form (-ing form) in almost the same places that a French speaker would use the imperfect tense. Try  viewing the video from Maarten's post and substitute the continuous form in the English sentence wherever you see the imperfect tense in the French sentence. You'll be surprised.

past tenses

I wonder - why you said 'j'ai passé (de nombreux après-midis)' when every other past tense is written as the imperfect? Every thing done here was a repeated past action. 

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