Imparfait vs Passe Compose
For a French learner, understanding the difference between imparfait and passé composé can be very tricky. All of you who learning French must have gone through this experience. If French is not your native language and you are trying to learn it, you would find many dissimilarities in grammar with the English language. The use of tenses is very confusing, especially imparfait and passé composé, which are used to describe things (actions) happening in the past. If you are a French, it all comes intuitively to you, and you have a feel of using tenses, but to someone who is trying to learn the language choosing between imparfait and passé composé can be tricky at times. Let us take a closer look.
There are many ways to talk about events that took place in the past in French, just as one can use several ways to talk about past events in English. Imparfait and passé composé are both used for this purpose. The situation becomes troublesome for some as they see both of them being used in a single sentence. Both have multiple uses, and unless one is fully aware of the usage and the context in which either is used, it is easy to make mistakes.
What is Passé Composé?
Passé composé is the first past tense taught to students of French language. If you try to compare, simple past tense in English compares well with it. For example, I swam, He slept, She ran, etc. are all example of simple past tense. Thus, passé composé is a word used to describe an event from the past that began and ended with our story, and is not taking place at present. Grammatically speaking, passé composé or the perfect tense is used to express a completed action or a deed in a given moment in the past, near or far way.
What is Imparfait?
Talking of Imparfait, there is no exact equivalent in English language, but imperfect is the tense that come closest to this word. When we are talking of a continuing past event, we make use of this word in French. Some examples where this word can be used are, “I was writing with my pen”, “We used to have soup on Sundays”, “It was a sunny day,” etc. All these sentences, when translated into French, would require Imparfait to be used. Grammatically speaking, Imparfait is used for actions that are in the course of been completed. There is no precise limit in the tense.
What is the difference between Imparfait and Passe Compose?
• Passé compose or the perfect tense is used to express a completed action or a deed in a given moment in the past, near or far way.
• Imparfait is used for actions that are in the course of been completed. There is no precise limit in the tense.
Imparfait vs Passé Composé
Thus, it is clear that when we need to describe events with a precise time, we make use of passé composé, which is like a single dot on the timeline. These are single events and take place once at a given time. On the contrary, there are events that have a long timeline; they last for a long period in the past. These are events that need to be described with Imparfait. Events that were done as a habit in the past are thus Imparfait, while passé composé is used for words or events that take place once, or suddenly.