French imparfait vs passé composé: what’s the difference?
In French, the imparfait and passé composé are two of the most important past tenses. Understanding the difference between the two is essential for communicating effectively in French.
The imparfait is used to describe ongoing actions, habits, or states in the past. It’s often translated as “was doing” or “used to do.” For example:
Je jouais au football tous les après-midi. (I was playing soccer every afternoon.) Il était très bon élève. (He was a very good student.)
The passé composé, on the other hand, is used to describe completed actions in the past. It’s often translated as “did.” For example:
J’ai joué au football hier. (I played soccer yesterday.) Il a étudié pour l’examen. (He studied for the exam.)
It’s important to note that the passé composé is formed using the auxiliary verb “avoir” (to have) followed by the past participle of the main verb. The imparfait, on the other hand, is formed by taking the nous form of the present tense and adding the following endings: -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient.
To summarize, use the imparfait to describe ongoing actions in the past, and use the passé composé to describe completed actions in the past. With practice, you’ll be able to switch between the two tenses effortlessly and communicate accurately in French.