Bethemma
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I have been studying French for 7 years now, just about to take my A2 exam and I still can't seem to wrap my head around the use of the imperfect tense? It is constantly lacking from my essays because I am simply scared to use it... Could anyone possibly help? Either explain or just give me a general sentence to learn that I could throw into an essay to improve range.

I appreciate any help
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RMT
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Hi
Do you have the AQA french exam tomorrow?

It took me ages to get my head around the tenses so you are not alone!

The imperfect tense is basically a tense used when the action you are talking about has not been completed or there is no known time when it was completed (usually english verbs that end in -ing use the imperfect). The thing most people get confused with is the difference between the imperfect tense and the perfect tense (an action, or series of actions, that was completed in the past). The way I look at how to use the imperfect tense is if you can't use the perfect tense because the action was not completed then you use the imperfect. A good example is this:
Ben a parlé avec Marie = Ben spoke with Marie (perfect tense). It happened and then it finished. Ben parlait avec Marie = Ben was speaking with Marie (Imperfect tense). It wasn't completed because the tense is not as specific as the perfect tense - Ben could still be speaking to Marie now for all we know with the imperfect tense, but he can't be with the perfect tense because it implies that he spoke to her and then stopped.

Another example could be this:
Les Francais souffraient pendant l'occupation (The French people suffered during the occupation). This cannot be in the perfect tense because they didn't suffer one day and stop - it was an ongoing action that happened in the past.
It doesn't really impact translation into English as we don't really have this distinction which is why I think people find it hard to understand.

I hope this makes sense. If you need any more help let me know. Good luck with your exam .
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qwertyuiop1993
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(Original post by RMT)
Hi
Do you have the AQA french exam tomorrow?

It took me ages to get my head around the tenses so you are not alone!

The imperfect tense is basically a tense used when the action you are talking about has not been completed or there is no known time when it was completed (usually english verbs that end in -ing use the imperfect). The thing most people get confused with is the difference between the imperfect tense and the perfect tense (an action, or series of actions, that was completed in the past). The way I look at how to use the imperfect tense is if you can't use the perfect tense because the action was not completed then you use the imperfect. A good example is this:
Ben a parlé avec Marie = Ben spoke with Marie (perfect tense). It happened and then it finished. Ben parlait avec Marie = Ben was speaking with Marie (Imperfect tense). It wasn't completed because the tense is not as specific as the perfect tense - Ben could still be speaking to Marie now for all we know with the imperfect tense, but he can't be with the perfect tense because it implies that he spoke to her and then stopped.

Another example could be this:
Les Francais souffraient pendant l'occupation (The French people suffered during the occupation). This cannot be in the perfect tense because they didn't suffer one day and stop - it was an ongoing action that happened in the past.
It doesn't really impact translation into English as we don't really have this distinction which is why I think people find it hard to understand.

I hope this makes sense. If you need any more help let me know. Good luck with your exam .
Be careful, it is actually grammatically incorrect to say "les Français souffraient pendant l'Occupation". Here the perfect or passé simple are used: "Les Français ont souffert pendant l'Occupation".

The imperfect/perfect distinction has nothing to do with actual duration of actions, but how you want to present the action.

The imperfect tense presents an action in the past as being 'unbound' (no reference to start or end) while the perfect presents an action as a 'point' in time, with finite bounds. As such, with the imperfect, there is a sense of being pulled back into the past, experiencing it as it unfolds, while with the perfect tense you are merely looking back on the past as a finite event (regardless of actual length of time).

The word 'pendant' most often introduces a bounded action 'Pendant L'Occupation', 'Pendant 2 ans' etc, and so the perfect is used - yes the Occupation didn't happen in a day, but when you use 'pendant', you are declaring that you are looking back on the past from the perspective of the present - the suffering of the French during this time is seen as a 'block' on a timeline, therefore perfect tense.

When you use the imperfect with 'pendant', you actually imply repetition:
Compare:

Pendant les vacances j'ai joué au tennis tous les jours. (During the holidays [a specific holiday] I played tennis every day)

Pendant les vacances, je jouais au tennis tous les jours (Implies that over several holidays you played tennis every day e.g. 'When I was a kid, I would play tennis every day during the holidays)

At A level I had no clue about all of the above, it's only at uni that they explained everything properly.
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straight2hell
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Salut!

L'equivalent le plus proche de l'imparfait en Anglais serait surement 'x was/were doing x'. Ca a l'air simple, parce que ca l'est!

Par example - 'Elles jouaient au tennis' - 'They [feminine] were playing tennis'. Par contre, l'imparfait ne precise pas quand, ou si l'action decrite est complete - comme qwertyuoip vient de preciser, elles pourraient, en fait, toujours etre en train d'y jouer, au tennis.

Mais bon, te parler de ca, c'est pas trop utile sans examples. Ce serait surement mieux pour toi si tu y reflechissais un petit peu et revenais avec des question plus precises, avec des phrases ou tu voudrais l'utiliser, l'imparfait. Je dois avouer que je sympathise bien avec toi, la - la conjugaison doit etre la matiere que je deteste le plus. Vivement la simplicite de la langue anglaise!

PS - Desole si mon francais n'est pas cent pour cent parfait, j'habite en Angleterre en ce moment alors je parle Anglais la plupart du temps - ce qui me fait oublier les subtilites du Francais, et bien sur comment utiliser les accents et les cedilles (beurk, les claviers qwerty!).
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RMT
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(Original post by qwertyuiop1993)
Be careful, it is actually grammatically incorrect to say "les Français souffraient pendant l'Occupation". Here the perfect or passé simple are used: "Les Français ont souffert pendant l'Occupation".

The imperfect/perfect distinction has nothing to do with actual duration of actions, but how you want to present the action.

The imperfect tense presents an action in the past as being 'unbound' (no reference to start or end) while the perfect presents an action as a 'point' in time, with finite bounds. As such, with the imperfect, there is a sense of being pulled back into the past, experiencing it as it unfolds, while with the perfect tense you are merely looking back on the past as a finite event (regardless of actual length of time).

The word 'pendant' most often introduces a bounded action 'Pendant L'Occupation', 'Pendant 2 ans' etc, and so the perfect is used - yes the Occupation didn't happen in a day, but when you use 'pendant', you are declaring that you are looking back on the past from the perspective of the present - the suffering of the French during this time is seen as a 'block' on a timeline, therefore perfect tense.

When you use the imperfect with 'pendant', you actually imply repetition:
Compare:

Pendant les vacances j'ai joué au tennis tous les jours. (During the holidays [a specific holiday] I played tennis every day)

Pendant les vacances, je jouais au tennis tous les jours (Implies that over several holidays you played tennis every day e.g. 'When I was a kid, I would play tennis every day during the holidays)

At A level I had no clue about all of the above, it's only at uni that they explained everything properly.
Oh okay thanks for clearing that up! I have my A2 exam tomorrow so this will help


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