Difference between Imparfait and Passé Composé

Jul 3, 2011 by

What is the Difference between Imparfait and Passé Composé?

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  1. khristine

    Imparfait and passé composé are both French terms that are used primarily to convey actions that have happened in the past, or commonly known as “past tenses” in English language. The two actually differ with each other considering the manner on how each are applied in a French sentence.

    Imparfait (or “imperfect” in English word) is applied to an on-going action in the past, whereas passé composé is applied to an accomplished action in the past.

    Imparfait primarily illustrates past situations while passé composé recounts precise events.

    Imparfait does not signify any exact completion contrarily to passé composé that asserts one (or more) actions or events that started and concluded in the past.

    Imparfait is often used for depicting general facts, circumstances, recurring events, or descriptions done in the past. Additionally, passé composé is classified in French verb conjugations as a compound tenses which are expressed in two parts: one, present tense of the auxiliary verb (use of either être or avoir). And two, past participle of the main action word.

    Imparfait is used for frequent or habitual actions, or applied to something that have occurred a couple of times. Passé composé, on the other hand, deals with a solo event. Or, in other cases, a specified event that took place a couple of times.

    Imparfait depicts a broad mental or material state of being. Passé composé, then again, specifies a kind of change in mental or material state at a particular period of time or in an unusual happening.

    Observe the following examples of imparfait sentences as compared to passé compose: “Il y avait beaucoup de gens au cinéma” (“There were many people at the movies”) and “Le ciel était couvert, et il pleurait” (“It was cloudy, and it was raining”), as compared to “J’ai visitéle Louvre trios fois” (“I’ve visited the Louvre three times”) and “Pour la première fois, j’ai aiimé les épinards” (“For the first time, I liked spinach”).

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