So what's your question?
Valid question, Chris. I had placed the question in the second box that the site offer, which solicits greater detail about the question, but after submitting my entry I saw that what I had written in that box did not appear, and unfortunately I did not keep a copy of my question, so here goes again (first on a Word document in the event of another unwelcome surprise).
Lawless states, in her lesson on depuis vs il y a, that depuis can only be used with verbs in the present and imparfait tenses. But that seemed to not jibe with this sentence I came across in a French novel: Linda était partie depuis treize ans.
I believe it translates to "Linda had been gone 13 years," which makes sense in the context of the story.
As I see it, "était partie" could be one of two things: either the plus-que-parfait with partir as the primary verb, or the imparfait (of être) with partie as an adjective. If it is the former, then it disobeys the Lawless rule. If the latter, it is consistent with the Lawless rule, where "être" is a state-of-being verb as Lawless labels it (and "partie" is the adjective "gone").
This led me to a broader question: being that the past participle of a verb conjugated with être need be gender and numbers aligned to the subject (as are adjectives), it must be that context comes into play to determine when the verb at hand is in the imparafit or plus-que-parfait tense, yes?
yes, the translation of "Linda était partie depuis treize ans" as "Linda had been gone for 13 years" is correct and requires the imparfait in French. You can think of the past participle "partie" as an adjective. The sentence would work equally if you substituted "heureuse" in its stead:
Linda était heureuse pendant 13 ans. -- Linda had been happy for 13 years.
I hope that helps a bit.
-- Chris (not a native speaker).
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