Spook-tacular sale! Save 31% on Premium quarterly »

Imperfect vs. conditional

IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Imperfect vs. conditional

"le propriétaire m'a dit que vous étiez mon fournisseur d'électricité".

Can you explain the use of the imperfect tense in this context?

I chose "vous seriez"rather than 'vous  étiez".  I interpreted "were" as conditional (ie, as "you would be") rather than literally "you were".  I thought that Bruno was not already a client of the electricity provider. Is this acceptable?


Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

The use of the imperfect tense is dictated by the indirect speech of the sentence. There is a strict rule which tense to use, depending on the tense used in the main clause and the tense which would be used in the direct speech.

Unfortunately, kwiziq doesn't have lessons pertaining specifically to indirect speech. I think they were planning to put some up a long time ago but that never materialized. So, for this topic, you're forced to look off site, e.g., here: https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/reported-speech/

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

If the implied direct speech were in the future tense rather than the present, then the indirect speech would be in the conditional in French or English, so "vous seriez" is not ungrammatical. But the sentence to be translated used "you were", not "you would be"  so an accurate translation should use the imperfect.

As far as I know, there are no differences in indirect speech between French and English. If there are any differences I would love to see a lesson that explained them. However every description that I have seen of indirect speech in French just gives a set of rules that are the same as the basic rules in English. But in English there are many subtle exceptions, and I think the same exceptions apply in French. I don't think that an over-simplified lesson would be helpful to English speakers. It's probably easier, and perhaps more reliable, just to copy English usage.

Imperfect vs. conditional

"le propriétaire m'a dit que vous étiez mon fournisseur d'électricité".

Can you explain the use of the imperfect tense in this context?

I chose "vous seriez"rather than 'vous  étiez".  I interpreted "were" as conditional (ie, as "you would be") rather than literally "you were".  I thought that Bruno was not already a client of the electricity provider. Is this acceptable?


Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Ask a question

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level
Clever stuff happening!