Totally confused between the passé composé and the imparfait!

JimB2Kwiziq community member

Totally confused between the passé composé and the imparfait!

I thought I was fairly au fait with this, but this particular exercise has completely tangled me up. Why is it passé composé for "he continued to work"? Surely this is kind of ipso facto a "continuing activity in the past" so I don't get the rationale for it being passé composé. Similarly, surely he was writing beautiful lyrics throughout his career - a continuing activity in the past. So again, why the passé composé and not the imparfait? I'm mind-bogglingly confused here!

Asked 2 months ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Jim,

'Il a continué de travailler et il est devenu célèbre' is in Le Passé Composé because these actions are looked at as finished/completed, and happened at one point on the time frame. They are definite actions with a clear end and beginning. You cannot use 'continuer' in the sense of it being a regular event because it is followed by another action straigh away and therefore you cannot use L'Imparfait, unless you wish to give a description or talk about a regular past event. 'Il continuait de travailler et il devenait célèbre' would mean that 'he used to continue to work / was continuing to work and he used to become / was becoming famous' (no clear end or beginning to the action on the time frame) - the-passe-compose-is-mostly-used-where-in-english-we-use-the-simple-past

See answer here on why both L'Imparfait and Le Passé Composé can be used sometimes in sentences such as 'he wrote beautiful lyrics': /questions/view/imperfect-or-perfect-tense-but-not-both

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Jim,

I agree that on the face of it, we would expect l'imparfait. But I can see the plus-que-parfait being possible in the sense "Il avait continué ...."   "He had continued...".

I accept your input in good faith of course, but was it the Passé Composé or Plus-Que-Parfait being used?

Otherwise, we need to wait for a moderator's input - then we will both be the wiser!

Sorry, I can't help more.

Jim (Alan)

BarrieB2Kwiziq community member

Hi Jim.  I too was confused about the 'lyrics' translation and Chris provided the following answer - "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".

Re. the 'continued to work' translation, my thoughts here are that 'to continue' is to 'start again' and as such can be considered as a completed action in the past?

Totally confused between the passé composé and the imparfait!

I thought I was fairly au fait with this, but this particular exercise has completely tangled me up. Why is it passé composé for "he continued to work"? Surely this is kind of ipso facto a "continuing activity in the past" so I don't get the rationale for it being passé composé. Similarly, surely he was writing beautiful lyrics throughout his career - a continuing activity in the past. So again, why the passé composé and not the imparfait? I'm mind-bogglingly confused here!

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