Imparfait v pass compos
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Imparfait v. Passé Composé. Imparfait vs. Passé Composé. The imparfait and the passé composé are both used to express past occurrences, but their uses are distinctly different. Uses of Passé Composé. The passé composé is used to express. completed. past. actions. For example:

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Imparfait vs pass compos
Imparfait vs. Passé Composé

The imparfait and the passécomposé are both used to express past occurrences, but their uses are distinctly different.

Uses of pass compos
Uses of Passé Composé

The passé composé is used to express




For example:

Hier, j ’ai fini ma rédaction d ’anglais.

Ce matin, nous avons vu un film dans la classe d ’histoire.

Uses of pass compos1
Uses of Passé Composé

In these sentences, whether or not it is stated, one could specify an exact time at which the event took place.

(à 3h15)

Hier, j ’ai fini ma rédaction d ’anglais.

(à 9h36)

Ce matin, nous avons vu un film dans la classe d ’histoire.

Uses of imparfait
Uses of Imparfait

The imparfait, however, by definition, means imperfect. Its uses are much less clearly defined.

They fall into three basic categories:

  • habitual past actions

  • continuing past actions

  • conditions (non-actions)

(used to do)

(was doing)


Habitual past actions
Habitual Past Actions

An habitual past action is one that occurred repeatedly over a long period of time.

For example:

We used to play baseball every day.

Nous jouions au baseball tous les jours.

Habitual past actions1
Habitual Past Actions

Careful! Habitual past actions are not necessarily translated as « used to.. »

For example:

Quand j ’étais jeune, je me promenais à l ’école tous les jours.

might be translated

When I was young, I walked to school every day.

The key is that the action occurred repeatedly in the past.

Continuing past actions
Continuing Past Actions

For example:

Je faisais la vaiselle quand tu m’as téléphoné.

I was doing the dishes when you called me.

The imparfait is also used to express actions that were going on when something else happened.

Continuing past actions1
Continuing Past Actions

When it is used to express a continuing past action, the imparfait is often,but not always, used in combination with the passé composé.


Quand j’ai vu Charles, il parlait avec Georges.

Il faisait beau. Le soleil brillait et il y avait une belle brise. (Eventually, an action occurs in a later sentence.)

Conditions non actions
Conditions (non-actions)

There is a class of verbs which do not express action at all. Rather, they express conditions, states of being, or states of mind. When these verbs occur in a past tense, it is almost always the imparfait.

Conditions non actions1
Conditions (non-actions)

Some of these verbs are:

être avoir vouloir

pouvoir savoir désirer

connaître penser croire

se sentir espérer aimer

faire (w/ expressions of weather)

Conditions non actions2
Conditions (non-actions)


Quand j ’avais six ans, j ’aimais jouer au cache-cache.

Ce matin, nous ne voulions pas aller à l ’école.

Jean ne savait pas faire son devoir, et il était très frustré.







Remember that the passé composé is used to express completed past actions.

The imparfait expresses

habitual past actions

continuing past actions

conditions (non-actions)

Test yourself
Test Yourself

Complete the following sentences with the appropriate verb form:

Anne-Marie ______ en France quand


elle __________.

(se marier)

continuing past action


completed past action

s ’est mariée

Test yourself1
Test Yourself

completed past action

ont quitté

Quand ils ____________ le château,


ils _________ fatigués, et il


__________ très chaud.






Test yourself2
Test Yourself

completed past action

a demandé

Le garçon ____________ à nos amis


ce qu ’ils ___________ prendre. Ils


____________ une glâce.




ont commandé

completed past action

Test yourself3
Test Yourself



Quand elle _________ plus jeune,


Suzanne ________ français et


anglais. Mais elle __________


l ’anglais.


habitual past action

a oublié

completed past action

Test yourself4
Test Yourself

continuing past action


Ma soeur __________ au football


quand elle ___________ et


___________ la cheville.

(se fouler)

est tombée

completed past action

s ’est foulé

completed past action

Test yourself5
Test Yourself



Quand j ’_________ neuf ans,


j ’ __________ à Paris, et j(e)


_________ le métro tous les jours.





habitual past action