“Would” causing confusion

BrianC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

“Would” causing confusion

“We would gather at the … table”


translates to:


On se retrouvait à la table…

On se rassemblait à la table…

On se réunissait à la table…


How is the “would” in “We would gather” reflected here?  How is this different from “we gathered”, “we used to gather”, or “we were gathering”?


Same thing with “and we'd devour …” translating to “et on dévorait…”. 


The French imparfait seems natural here. Maybe it’s really the function of the English word “would” that’s confusing me when trying to analyse it. It’s the same word as the conditional “would”, but this is not conditional. It’s not the main verb, e.g. “to gather”. It’s almost like an English imperfect version of “to be”. 


Helpful comments welcome! 


Asked 1 month ago
JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Brian,

As I understand it "would" translates in French as an habitual past action and is expressed in the imparfait. Looking at the text of the lesson this seems to me to be borne out in the description of how they (habitually) used to (would) do things.

Jim

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

In English, "would" is often used to express habitual actions in the past:

We would go fishing in summer. -- vs. -- We went fishing in summer.

The first sentence talks about a repeated, habitual action whereas the second one only is about a single event.

“Would” causing confusion

“We would gather at the … table”


translates to:


On se retrouvait à la table…

On se rassemblait à la table…

On se réunissait à la table…


How is the “would” in “We would gather” reflected here?  How is this different from “we gathered”, “we used to gather”, or “we were gathering”?


Same thing with “and we'd devour …” translating to “et on dévorait…”. 


The French imparfait seems natural here. Maybe it’s really the function of the English word “would” that’s confusing me when trying to analyse it. It’s the same word as the conditional “would”, but this is not conditional. It’s not the main verb, e.g. “to gather”. It’s almost like an English imperfect version of “to be”. 


Helpful comments welcome! 


Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Ask a question

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level
Getting that for you now...