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IMPARFAIT/PASSE COMPOSE

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Comment raconter une histoire au passé

When telling a story in the past the imperfect and passé composé work together to describe different types of actions and to create different narrative effects . Observe the chart bellow

IMPARFAIT PASSE COMPOSE

The imperfect provides the description of the scenario: external conditions such as time, date, weather, etc.

1-Il était midi, il faisait beau , je déjeunais à la terrasse d'un café

It was noon , the weather was nice, I was having lunch at outdoor " café"

The imperfect is used to describe what the character was doing when something happened

2-je déjeunais à la terrasse d'un café en lisant un magazine

nice, I was having lunch at outdoor " café reading a magazine"

The imperfect is used to describe a character's appearance in the story

4-C'était une femme âgée, elle avait des cheveux blancs et une robe bleue.

She was an older lady with white hair and a blue dress

The imperfect is used to describe a physical a mental condition or a state of mind

7-La vieille dame tremblait , elle était choquée, elle ne pouvait pas parler.

The older lady was in a state of chock, she was shaking , she could not talk

 

The passé composé provides the actions that develop the story line. These actions must have been completed in the past and be specific. It answers to the questions "What happened". The passé composé make the action go forward.

 

 

 

 

 

3-Soudain j'ai entendu un cri, je me suis retournée et j'ai vu une femme

All of a sudden I heard a scream, I turned around and I saw a lady

5-Elle a commencé à crier au secours au secours, on m'a volé mon sac

She started to yell, help help , someone stole

My bag

6- La police est arrivée et a pris la description du voleur

The police arrived and wrote down the description of the thief

AUTRES EMPLOIS DE L' IMPARFAIT ET DU PASSE COMPOSE

Imperfect and passé composé are also often used together when an action in progress is interrupted by another action . The imperfect is used to describe the action in progress and the passé composé to describe the action that interrupts the action in progress.

Je prenais mon bain quand le téléphone a sonné

I was taking a bath when the phone rang

EXERCICE

Hoisissez la bonne phrase

1-When she arrived he was still in his pajamas a-elle arrivait

b-elle est arrivée

2-When I heard the news, I couldn't speak

a-j'ai entendu

b-j'entendais

3-When I arrived in Paris, I didn't know anybody

a-j'ai connu

b-je connaissais

4- I was leaving when she arrived a-je suis parti

b-je partais

5-When I met her she worked for Peugeot a-elle a travaillé

b-elle travaillait

6-she was walking down the street when this guy started following her

a-commençait

b-a commencé

7-After the accident, I was crying

a-j'ai pleuré

b-je pleurais

8-When he told me that I was not listening

a-je n'écoutais pas

b-Je n'ai pas écouté

 

REPONSES

1b-2a-3b-4b-5b-6b-7b-8a