Passé composé or imparfait

JudyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Passé composé or imparfait

The answer “et j’ai toujours été très romantique”. Could you explain why this isn’t in the imparfait tense? “j’étais toujours…. ?

Asked 1 year ago
CélineKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Judy,

L'Imparfait is usually for incomplete actions in the past while Le Passé Composé describes completed actions in the past. However there's a bit more to it. 

Maarten is correct that:

- L'Imparfait, describes something that is entirely in the past 

J'étais toujours très romantique = I always was romantic

 -> incomplete action entirely in the past

 

- Le Passé Composé - with "toujours / jamais" - expresses something that started in the past but still continues in the present time

J'ai toujours été très romantique = I've always been romantic

 -> my being romantic started in the past and is still ongoing (toujours = still)

Take a look at the link below from one of our partners' site:

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/passe-compose-vs-imparfait/

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

In this sense, imparfait is only used for events completely in the past - ongoing in the past with vague duration etc, but no longer happening. 

Passé composé is used for things/events true in past and currently, and its use specifically indicates still happening/true in the present (the use of ‘toujours’ or ‘jamais’ are useful clues in many cases).

Using imparfait would have meant that she used to be romantic, but not any more. By using passé composé the speaker is confirming she is still romantic.  Both the choice of words and tense convey a particular meaning.

Unfortunately I can’t link to the many previous answers to the frequent questions on this topic (hopefully Cécile or Céline will be able to add some), but in the You Tube link below at about 14 minutes Hugo Cotton discusses this advanced use case for passé composé. The whole clip is worth listening to. It is in clear French with subtitles available if needed. You may need to copy/paste the link :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rpQ5xeFneg

JudyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thanks so much for clearing this up for me. Finally, I get it!

Passé composé or imparfait

The answer “et j’ai toujours été très romantique”. Could you explain why this isn’t in the imparfait tense? “j’étais toujours…. ?

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