Is the Passe Simplé more like Passé Composé in meaning, or more like Imparfait? Or is this comparison just not a useful way to think about it?
Le Passé Simple has been replaced by Le Passé Composé in spoken French (hence it is a "sort" of equivalent to Le Passé Composé). It is mainly used in written work of fiction. It is very much taught in schools as most French novels use Le Passé Simple. It is also called 'le passé historique' because it helps relate historical past events.
Cette bataille eut lieu en 1515 = this battle took place in 1515
Cette bataille a eu lieu en 1515 = this battle took place in 1515
Here is a link on Le Passé Simple which you might find useful.
Bonne journée !
As I understand it -- perfect (passé composé). In my experience, French locals use this tense (simple past ) more commonly in normal conversation.
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