Passé Composé

Peter

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

6 replies

Passé Composé

Question: What is the best way to say ''He waited for twenty minutes.''?

Correct Answer: Il a attendu pendant vingt minutes.

Wrong Answer: Il attendait pendant vingt minutes.

If the question was "He was waiting for twenty minutes.", would the correct answer then be "Il attendait pendant vingt minutes."?

This relates to:
Le Passé Composé is mostly used where English uses Simple Past -

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Hi Peter,

actually, I don't think so. According to my understanding the translation of "He waited for 20 minutes" and "He was waiting for 20 minutes" would both be "Il a attendu pendant 20 minutes."

However, in the context there may be additional information available which would dictiate the use of the imperfect.

I used to wait 20 minutes. -- J'attendais pendant 20 minutes.
Here you use the imperfect because the sentence alludes to a general habit rather than a one-off kind of experience.

He was waiting for the bus when we met. -- Il attendait le bus quand nous nous sommes rencontrés.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Sorry....I got kicked out and couldn't finishe the post. So here goes:

He was waiting for the bus when we met. -- Il attendait le bus quand nous nous sommes rencontrés.
In this case you have to actions going on: one as a kind of background action (the waiting) and the other as the main focus (the meeting). The former is in the imperfect, the latter in the perfect.

-- Chris (not a native teacher).

Peter

Kwiziq community member

5 April 2018

5/04/18

Chris, thank you for the response.

If I look at lesson at https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/l-imparfait-usage-expressing-continuing-action-in-the-past-imperfect-tense, the following examples are listed as proper use of Imparfait:

J'allais au marché...
I was going to the market...

Tu parlais de Jean, ce matin.
You were talking this morning about John.

Nous pensions aller à la plage
We were thinking of going to the beach.

Vous étiez là ce matin.
You (pl) were there this morning.

In the above examples by kwiziq, the past continuous tense were translated using Imparfait. Your example "Il attendait le bus quand nous nous sommes rencontrés" makes sense because the 2 actions are linked.
However, it seems one can use both passé composé and imparfait when only 1 action (verb):

Nous attendions à la porte
vs
Nous avons attendu à la porte

I guess one will learn over time which one to use within which context?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

Hi Peter, the imperfect version has a different connotation than its counterpart in passé composé. In English, this connotation isn't captured perfectly by a one single translation but rather by several. Which one of these captures the right flavor at any one specific instance is determined by context.

"Nous attendions à la porte." could mean:
We were waiting at the door.
We used to wait at the door.

"Nous avons attendu à la porte." however, is simply:
We waited at the door.

Using one or the other expresses different situations, so they aren't generally interchangeable.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

Returning to your original question of how to translate "We were waiting at the door."

I guess I would lean toward the imparfait since the continuous form expresses a kind of duration or a background action. But, to me, this is less obvious than the two other pretty clear-cut examples in my previous post.

-- Chris (not a native teacher).

Peter

Kwiziq community member

7 April 2018

7/04/18

Thank you Chris, I appreciate your feedback!

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