Use of plus-que parfait (pluperfect tense) v perfect tense.

StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Use of plus-que parfait (pluperfect tense) v perfect tense.

The sentence 'I can still see her smile when I surprised her.' is translated using the pluperfect tense:

'Je vois encore son sourire quand je l'avais surprise.'

Would it also be correct to use the perfect tense: 'Je vois encore son sourire quand je l'ai surprise.'?

Asked 3 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Stewart and Chris, 

I can confirm that the pluperfect is correct in French what I don't know is why you don't use it in English.

I have asked our English natives for their opinion but have had no answer yet...

This story is in the past and says :

... one day when she had gone into town, I snuck in and ...

Je vois encore son sourire quand je l'avais surprise = I still can see her smile (now) when I had surprised her ( at that time).

You might use the perfect tense to say of a nearer past 

Je vois encore son sourire quand je lui ai apporté des fleurs la semaine dernière = I can still see her smile when I brought her flowers last week

Hope this helps!

 

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Stewart,

The context seems to be of an enduring memory of a past event.

This is why I think that the imperfect of avoir is appropriate (as in pluperfect).

It is not a completed action which would cause the perfect to be appropriate.

This is my opinion for what it is worth.

Hope it helps.

Jim

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The use of le plus-que-parfait sounds odd to my ears, given the main clause is in present tense. I wonder what Cécile has to say about this.

StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thanks Chris, that's what I thought ... could you perhaps ask Cécile to comment on this as you wondered what her opinion was. Thanks Stewart.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The order of events is: [he surprises her] -> [she smiles] -> [he remembers now] so I can see how the pluperfect could be applicable.

I think the problem (in English) is the word "when", which implies simultaneity. You could say "I can still see her smile after I had surprised her."

StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you Cécile, yes your answer certainly clarifies the situation.

BrianC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I’m starting to build an opinion that in French the speaker (and therefore the tenses they use) remain in the same time reference frame throughout the sentence (e.g. “I will do the washing up when you will have finished the dusting”). But in English, the “when” changes the time reference frame (e.g. I will do the washing up when you have finished the dusting). 

Use of plus-que parfait (pluperfect tense) v perfect tense.

The sentence 'I can still see her smile when I surprised her.' is translated using the pluperfect tense:

'Je vois encore son sourire quand je l'avais surprise.'

Would it also be correct to use the perfect tense: 'Je vois encore son sourire quand je l'ai surprise.'?

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