Ces fêtes ________ incroyables.
It seems to me both Imparfait and Passé Composé could be used here, for different meanings.
"Ces fêtes étaient incroyables." Those parties [which happened regularly, a long time ago] were amazing.
"Ces fêtes ont été incroyables." Those parties [which were not long ago, and which happened only once (e.g. in a specific summer)] were amazing.
The memory of the parties being great / unbelievable is an enduring past memorial event and is correctly expressed by the imparfait. They cannot be expressed as a completed past (passé composé) event due to the enduring memorial nature of them.
This is my take on your query -- let's see what other commentators think.
Hope this helps. Jim
Usually the answer to these sorts of questions is that both the passé composé and the imparfait are possible. It depends on the context, and how you want to continue - for example, do you want to describe the parties more fully, or is there nothing more to say. The imparfait might be more likely here, but I would be surprised if the passé composé was not possible. I see that Jim's answer is marked correct, so perhaps Céline/ Cécile could explain.
By the way, I don't think that it's relevant how long ago they happened, or how regular they were. Either way, we are talking about some specific parties.
Thanks. I think in Portuguese the opposite happens. For example, "the movie was great" - in the Imperfect, would correspond to "the movie used to be great", giving the sense that it is not great anymore, or that the experience can not be repeated (the movie is still good, but I will never be able to see it again). "The movie was great" - in the Past Simple, is, for what it seems to me, what the imperfect is in French (the movie was great, and the memory I have of it is still great). In Portuguese, this Past Tense also implies there is the opportunity to repeat the experience (in this case, it's not impossible for me to rewatch the movie).
Aurélie describes the imparfait usage for this context here for further information:- Describing and expressing opinions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
Cécile wrote this in response to a similar question:
Reflecting on a task that was particularly hard you could use either the imparfait or passé composé to say, ‘That was hard!’
If you say -
C'était dur! = you are reflecting on how hard the task was when you were doing it.
Ça a été dur!= you are reflecting on how hard the task was but that it is now over.
That said, I maintain that you will meet ‘être’ mainly in the imperfect tense...
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