Nous avons été très surpris en apprenant la nouvelle.
We were really surprised when we heard the news.
I would have used nous étions instead of nous avons été. Is that not correct?
In English nous avons été très surpris translates to - We have been very surprised which implies the surprise happened and is still ongoing or at least has a prolonged duration, whereas nous étions translates to - We were, which implies it happened but is no longer ongoing. The latter seems to be the correct answer to this question especially since being surprised is usually a point in time thing.
You can't draw a 1:1 correspondence between French and English use of perfect and imperfect tenses.
Nous avons été surpris. -- We were surprised.Nous étions surpris. -- We were being surprised / we used to be surprised
The imperfect implies a longer duration or a state of being, not a specific one-off event.
Thanks Chris, I was fixated on the "were" as implying the imperfect tense, as in "we were running" etc., and so I was equating we were surprised as being imperfect, but of course, as you point out, it is whether it was a fixed point in the past or a duration in the past which determines the perfect/imperfect tense. Thanks for taking the time to reply. It seems so obvious when you say it, but sometimes it takes someone to say it for it to become obvious!
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