I don't understand the difference between these two answers?

ChristieA2Kwiziq community member

I don't understand the difference between these two answers?

This was the sentence: Vous veniez me voir chaque semaine.

Two of the options for the answer are "You used to come and see me every week." and "You had come to see me every week." 

Same idea with this sentence: Nous allions en Espagne tous les etes. (Sorry, don't know how to get the accents on my keyboard).

Two of the options for the answer are "We used to go to Spain every summer." and "We were going to Spain every summer."

 

For me, in both situations the two answers mean the same thing and were both correct but I had to pick one. l don't understand how they are different and why one is correct and the other isn't. I'm guessing it's a subtle nuance I'm missing. Can you please explain? Thanks!

Asked 2 months ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour à tous,

Thank you all for your great answers! This question has been well discussed... ;-)

1. ‘Vous veniez me voir chaque semaine’ :

Vous étiez venus me voir chaque semaine You had come to see me every week

→ Plus-Que-Parfait

Vous veniez me voir chaque semaine = You used to come to see me every week

→ Imparfait

 

2. ‘Nous allions en Espagne tous les étés’ :

= We used to go to Spain every summer

→ Simple Past - habit / repeated action

= We were going to Spain every summer

 → Past Continuous – it is never used to express a habit or repeated action / ‘We were going went to Spain every summer’ → habit

In English you can't use the Past Continuous to talk about a past habit and/or a repeated action in the past. You have to use the Simple Past. So 'we went to ...' or 'we used to go to ...'

But you could find 'we were going to Spain every summer' translated by 'nous allions en Espagne tous les étés...' in French if you were describing what was happening at the time something else was happening or if you were describing what was happening at the time another event interrupted that action:

Nous allions en Espagne tous les étés jusqu’à ce que nous achetions une maison en France = We were going to Spain every summer until we bought a house in France

Although, it does sound strange to have the Past Continuous with an expression of frequency such as ‘every summer’. It sounds far better to use the Simple Past ‘we went to …'

3. French accents - follow the link here: french-accents

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Christie,

I understand your frustration and have had the same sensation many times with these quizzes.

I think the point that the lesson is wishing to highlight is the habitual nature of the past actions.

So in this context terms like "used to do something" or "would do something" are likely to be most appropriate to express habitual past actions.

I suspect that "had" or "were" doing something although amounting to the same thing in English, probably will be rejected as the correct answer in this context.

Hope this helps.

Jim

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Vous veniez me voir chaque semaine. This sentence uses the imperfect tense in French. The incorrect choice, "You had come to see me every week," is past perfect tense (plusquamperfect). The meaning is very different, and the past perfect tense is not the correct translation of the French imperfect.

Nous allions en Espagne tous les étés. In this case, I would count both of the options you cite  as correct.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I agree with Chris on the first example.

In the second case, "We were going to Spain every summer" is quite an odd sentence in English. We don't often use the past continuous tense "were going" to describe a habitual event. I suspect it was just chosen as a plausible wrong answer, because if the sentence had been "Nous allions en Espagne" [when something happened] then "We were going to Spain ...." would have been correct.

I am sure there must be some context where it would make sense, but probably the French sentence would be different - perhaps "Nous avions l'habitude ... etc". It's hard to say without the actual context.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Agreed, Alan. But the English sentence "We were going to Spain all the years" -- though admittedly applicable in some very specific contexts only -- is asking for the imperfect tense in English.

If a wrong answer is needed, then the choices should include a "better" wrong answer. ;)

P.S.: Just wrecking my brain to come up with a plausible context, something along these lines may work:
We were going to Spain all the years, when actually Portugal would have been much nicer!

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I hope I'm not just being pedantic if I say that there is no imperfect tense in English. The past continuous is quite often the appropriate tense to use in translation, but that's a different matter. I don't believe it corresponds to the imparfait here.

It is really hard to find a plausible context, and I don't think yours works. The use of the past continuous puts the focus at that point in time, not now, and there has to be something to justify that.  Maybe something like:

For the next few years there were few chances for us to meet. She was away at University during term, while we were going to Spain every summer.

But I don't like my example much either.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Agreed, English does not have a specific imperfect tense. To be absolutely precise, imperfect is a verb aspect and not a tense. In English it would be called past progressive or past continuous which is very closely aligned with what's imperfect tense in French.

ChristieA2Kwiziq community member

Thanks for all the answers everyone! I think I'm at the point where I've "hit the wall" with French in the past. All the different tenses and the rules on when to use them give me a headache.

It doesn't help that I'm Canadian and live in a city with a large Francophone population (about 30%), so the French I hear on a day-to-day basis does not always match what is taught on here and other places. It's not even always the same as Quebec French. Le sigh.

I think I understand the differences between the two answers in each case now. Although I had no idea that Plus-Que-Parfait even existed before reading this thread. Thanks again!

I don't understand the difference between these two answers?

This was the sentence: Vous veniez me voir chaque semaine.

Two of the options for the answer are "You used to come and see me every week." and "You had come to see me every week." 

Same idea with this sentence: Nous allions en Espagne tous les etes. (Sorry, don't know how to get the accents on my keyboard).

Two of the options for the answer are "We used to go to Spain every summer." and "We were going to Spain every summer."

 

For me, in both situations the two answers mean the same thing and were both correct but I had to pick one. l don't understand how they are different and why one is correct and the other isn't. I'm guessing it's a subtle nuance I'm missing. Can you please explain? Thanks!

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