MYTUTOR SUBJECT ANSWERS

220 views

When do we use the perfect and imperfect tense and what is the difference between the two?

Unfortunately one of the hardest things when it comes to learning about the past tense in French is learning the difference between the perfect and imperfect tense and when to use each of them. 

Put simply, the perfect tense translates to the English past tense "I ate/He saw" OR the English present perfect "I have eaten/He has seen", whereas the imperfect tense translates to the English imperfect "I was eating/He was seeing". Knowing the difference between these two tenses is essential in order to accurately express what you are trying to say when talking or writing about events in the past.

The perfect tense/passé composé

This is the most common past tense in French and it used when referring to:

1. actions in the past that have been completed (eg. J'ai déjà fait mes devoirs)

2. actions in the past that have been repeated a number of times (eg. Je suis allée au cinéma deux fois hier)

3. a series of actions completed in the past (eg. Lundi dernier, il a parlé avec sa mère, est allé au parc et a fait le ménage)

The imperfect tense

The imperfect tense in French is a descriptive past tense and is used when referring to:

1. Habitual actions (eg. Quand j'étais jeune, j'allais au Canada toutes les étés)

2. Physical and emotional descriptions: time, weather, age, feelings (eg. Hier il faisait beau)

3. Actions or states of unspecified duration (eg. Je restais longtemps au parc avant de rentrer chez moi)

4. Background information regarding passé composé (eg. Ils étaient à la plage quand il a commencé à pleuvoir)

5. Wishes or suggestions (eg. Ah! Si j'étais riche!)

6. Conditions in si clauses (eg. S'il faisait beau, j'irais à la plage)

7. The expressions être en train de and venir de in the past (eg. Il venait d'arriver)

 

Emily C. GCSE French tutor

6 months ago

Answered by Emily, a GCSE French tutor with MyTutor


Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist

153 SUBJECT SPECIALISTS

£20 /hr

Emma H.

Degree: MA Transnational Studies (Masters) - Southampton University

Subjects offered:French, Spanish+ 1 more

French
Spanish
German

“Hi there! My name is Emma and I am currently doing a masters at the University of Southampton. My Bachelor's degree was French, Spanish and German and I have lived in all three countries. I worked as an au pair in Spain and privately...”

£18 /hr

Amy C.

Degree: Combined Honours in International Relations and French (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered:French, Spanish+ 2 more

French
Spanish
Italian
Business Studies

“I am half English half Spanish but moved to England two years ago to do a degree in International Relations and French. I have experience teaching and lots of patience, as I understand the stuggle of learning a foreign language. I can...”

£24 /hr

Adham S.

Degree: MPhil General Linguistics and Comparative Philology (Masters) - Oxford, St Anne's College University

Subjects offered:French, Spanish+ 8 more

French
Spanish
Portuguese
Japanese
English Literature
English Language
Arabic
.MLAT (Modern Languages)
-Personal Statements-

“I am currently pursuing the MPhil in Linguistics and Philology at St Anne's, Oxford, having graduated in 2013 with a first in Linguistics and Georgian from SOAS, University of London.Language and languages have always been my keenest ...”

About the author

£18 /hr

Emily C.

Degree: French and Spanish (Bachelors) - Leeds University

Subjects offered:French

French

“About me: I am currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Leeds which I am absolutely loving. I have always been a passionate linguistic, especially in French, and would love to be able to share my passion with you.  ...”

You may also like...

Other GCSE French questions

How can I make the difference between the 'passé simple' and the 'imparfait'

When do I use 'qui' and when do I use 'que'?

When should I use the perfect and imperfect tenses when talking about past actions?

Using the perfect tense with avoir

View GCSE French tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss

mtw:mercury1:status:ok