L'imparfait vs le passé composé

TranC1Kwiziq community member

L'imparfait vs le passé composé

For this particular question,


Quand j'étais petit, ________ avec mes legos.

When I was small, I played with my Lego.


Can I check why L'imparfait should be used? I understand that l'imparfait is used for repeated actions or habit in the past. However, the English translation doesn't seem to reflect that. 


Within the context itself, I can argue that


1 - When I was young, I used to play with my Lego (as a habit) - Quand j'étais petit, je jouais avec mes legos.


2 - When I was young, I played with my Lego (one off event, which ended in the past) - Quand j'étais petit, j'ai joué avec mes legos.


Hence, I think both answers should be accepted, unless the English translation is changed in such a way that makes the action of "playing" repetitive. 
Thanks lots
Asked 4 years ago
MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

It is the French form that determines whether it is imparfait or passé composé , not the English translation. “Quand j’étais petit ( ou jeune )  ...’  imparfait - gives the context that the situation  will be in imparfait unless clearly indicated otherwise in the French that follows.

In everyday speech, Lego (uncountable noun) is used either for the game/set in general, or for the individual pieces. In the latter situation “je jouait avec mes (or des) legos” is (or was) used by French children. Another example of a trade name becoming more generic in ordinary use. Capitalisation not generally kept in generic uses of trade names.

It is worth reading other explanations of imparfait and passé composé, one of which linked below :

https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-verb-conjugation/passe-compose-versus-imparfait/

MayaA0Kwiziq community member

I think the 2nd answer is right, but I'm not sure.

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

In the absence of specifying that such an event was a once only or occasional repeated activity only, without an habitual component, the assumption would be that it was not, in English or French. With answer 2, it would be very much expected, in English or French, that it would be qualified to confirm it was not a recurring part of your childhood. So, you could say it in passé composé but without qualification, it would be an incomplete statement. Imparfait would be very much the form more used in this context.

JessicaC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I'd agree that the English version doesn't provide enough context to let you know which it is. I assume it's relying on  the expectation that Lego is a very common toy and children would often play with it.

As a side note, I don't think 'legos' is correct - it's a proper noun and a registered name, so it should be 'Lego' in both French and English. So:

Quand j'étais petit, je jouais avec mon Lego.

This seems to be confirmed by Larousse explicitly says that it should begin with a capital letter, and defines it as referring to the toy as a whole, rather than the individual pieces.

https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/Lego/46600

L'imparfait vs le passé composé

For this particular question,


Quand j'étais petit, ________ avec mes legos.

When I was small, I played with my Lego.


Can I check why L'imparfait should be used? I understand that l'imparfait is used for repeated actions or habit in the past. However, the English translation doesn't seem to reflect that. 


Within the context itself, I can argue that


1 - When I was young, I used to play with my Lego (as a habit) - Quand j'étais petit, je jouais avec mes legos.


2 - When I was young, I played with my Lego (one off event, which ended in the past) - Quand j'étais petit, j'ai joué avec mes legos.


Hence, I think both answers should be accepted, unless the English translation is changed in such a way that makes the action of "playing" repetitive. 
Thanks lots

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