Why does the translation of “You were late this morning” use the imparfait tense when it is a 1 off specified action and not repeated?

MaeveA2Kwiziq community member

Why does the translation of “You were late this morning” use the imparfait tense when it is a 1 off specified action and not repeated?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

I guess the short explanation would be that être is a verb-of-state (verbe d'état). And those verbs are overwhelmingly used in the imperfect tense since they describe a state and not an event. Here's more on this: https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/questions/view/what-are-verbes-d-etat-s-il-vous-plait

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The French sentence is in the primary language, and therefore is ‘correct’, by definition. 

Regardless of whether the French was in imparfait or passé composé, a natural English translation could be “You were late this morning”.  

 “…. running late… ” is an English alternative for the translation of the imparfait here, but may have been more confusing as there is clearly no reference to ‘running’ in the French sentence !  If you asked a French native speaker to translate from ‘You were running late this morning’,  you could very well get ‘ Tu courais tard ce matin ‘.

Generally, être will be used in imparfait - and in this case, although the ‘late’ clearly occurred in the morning, there is no specific time for the event itself - it has vague (unspecified) time boundaries  - paradoxically perhaps, I do think this becomes clearer when we think of it as ‘running late’ in English.

Why does the translation of “You were late this morning” use the imparfait tense when it is a 1 off specified action and not repeated?

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