when do we use the passé simple and not the imparfait ?
The passé simple describes a completed past event and is only used nowadays in written French, it is the equivalent of the spoken passé composé.
Here are examples using both tenses in written form -
Marie ouvrit le frigo pour voir ce qu'il y avait dedans = Marie opened the fridge to see what was in it
She opened the fridge ( completed event) there was ... (description or a state of being)
Jacques ferma la porte pendant qu'il parlait = Jack closed the door whilst he was speaking
Jacques closed the door ( completed event), he was speaking ( action in duration)
Hope this helps!
"Imparfait" is used to indicate actions that were in progress in the past no matter if the action is at its beginning or progression.
"Passé simple" is used to indicate a completed action in the past, which does not have present results.
Sometimes, "Imparfait" can do the job of "Passé simple" if we are talking about historical events as documentary presenters often do.
I.E., American shuttle landed on the moon.
La sonde américaine atterrissait sur la lune. (Imparfait)
La sonde américaine atterrit sur la lune. (Passé simple)
Note that we will never use "passé simple" to talk about action in progress in past.
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