Bonjour Adrian !
Very interesting question indeed!
The past of être is always a bit tricky because the nuances between L'Imparfait and Le Passé Composé are not as easy to sense with this ''state-of-being'' verb. Both cases would be translated in English by ''Last year, I was really sick.''
1. L'année dernière, j'ai été vraiment malade.
-> In this first case, you're talking about the fact of having been sick as a punctual event that happened at a definite point in the past. You can also as you pointed out translate it with the Present Perfect "I have been sick" when linking it to a later consequence.
2. L'année dernière, j'étais vraiment malade.
-> In this second case, you're evoking that sickness as something that lasted in the past, in its temporality as a process (e.g. it would be a bit like saying ''I was being sick'').
I hope that's helpful!À bientôt !
Even though it's coming up to three years that this question was asked, it is an interesting one and sheds light on the ever present problem of passé composé versus imparfait.
I think Adrian got the right idea in his last post, when distinguising between a singular occurrance of falling sick versus emphasising that one was sick more or less over the entire year.
However, I noted one mistake which I wanted to point out: J'ai été mangé means "I was eaten." It is passive voice. To contrast again the most common use of imparfait and passé composé:
J'ai mangé et puis tu m'as appelé. -- I ate and then you called.Je mangeais quand tu m'as appelé. -- I was eating when you called me.
In the first sentence you have two acts in the past, one happening after the other. You need passé composé for both. The second sentence uses imparfait because the act of eating is ongoing and kind of the back story to your calling me. The temporal relationship between the two actions (eating and your calling me) is different.
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