When writing in the past tense in French, how do you know when to use the passé composé and the imparfait?
This is a question that comes up often, and some students find it difficult to choose between these two past tenses.
In this video on my YouTube channel , I’ll give you some tips on how to differentiate these tenses and how to use them.
Don’t forget to put in any subtitles you want to make it easier to understand and read the transcript below!
How to choose between imparfait and passé composé?
Je suis allée à Paris quand j’étais petite. (I went to Paris when I was little.)
Passé composé (compound past) or imparfait (imperfect)?
Je suis allée à Paris (I went to Paris)… passé composé
quand j’étais petite. (when I was little)… imparfait
What is the difference between the passé composé and the imparfait in French?
Are you having trouble figuring out how to use these two past tenses?
So, I’ll help you understand what their differences are and when to use them!
Passé composé and imparfait
Welcome to Toast my French, my name is Morgane, and I am a certified French teacher.
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Today we are going to study the use of the passé composé and the imparfait.
This is a question I often get asked: * Ask your questions too!
How to know whether to use the passé composé or the imparfait in a sentence!
What is the difference?
The example of this video:
– “je suis allée à Paris (I went to Paris)” is in the passé composé.
It is the past tense which consists of the auxiliaries to be or to have + past participle, as j’ai mangé (I ate) or tu es arrivé (you arrived)!
– “quand j’étais petite (when I was little)” is in the imparfait.
It is the past tense that ends with these endings (-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient), as je parlais (I was speaking) or nous écoutions (we were listening).
QUAND UTILISER CES 2 TEMPS DU PASSÉ
When to use them?
The passé composé is used to tell an event, an action that happens at a specific time, with a beginning and an end.
For example, “Je suis allée à Paris (I went to Paris)” is indeed a specific action.
You can compare it to a movie: you see the action unfold.
The imparfait is used to describe a situation, to tell about habits or something that was happening.
For example, “quand j’étais petite (when I was little)” describes the situation, as one might see in a photo.
Did you understand?
Exercice sur le passé
Look at this sentence:
Ce matin, Marie …. (prendre) son parapluie parce qu’il … (pleuvoir).
(This morning, Marie…. (to take) her umbrella because it … (to rain).)
It’s up to you to complete with the good tense! *It’s your turn!
The correct sentence is:
Ce matin, Marie a pris (passé composé) son parapluie parce qu’il pleuvait (imparfait).
(This morning, Marie took (passé composé) her umbrella because it was raining (imparfait).)
Ce matin, Marie a pris son parapluie parce qu’il pleuvait.
(This morning, Marie took her umbrella because it was raining.)
Eh yes! Here “take” is the action and “rain” is the description!
To check if you’ve understood correctly, write sentences using the passé composé and the imparfait in the comments!
I will tell you if this is correct or I will correct you!
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