Learning another language is always difficult, and a lot of us know that first hand through studying different languages in high school and etc. I took three years of French during high school and not going to lie I aced both freshmen year and sophomore year. However, come junior year I was completely lost. First year French and second year French were all memorization of easy words like “yellow” (jaune) and “skirt” (jupe), as well as a lot of game playing (and we got candy if we won!), so junior year hit me pretty hard when we switched gears to actually learning how to form proper sentences. After struggling through the class I dropped out of French the summer before senior year.
Dropping was a huge mistake. Maybe I would actually still be able to speak some French if I had stuck it out.
Nonetheless, here is the main reason why I struggled through my last year of French:
Passé Composé vs. Imperfect
Dun. Dun. Dun.
After you learn all of the easy vocabulary of a new language you have to learn how to actually form sentences. That’s the kicker. Which is where the verb tenses begin to come in, and where Whitney as a French student began to check out. However, a simple way of understanding Passé Composé and the Imperfect is this;
The imperfect in French translates to the imperfect in English, such as, “I was eating.” While on the other hand, the passé composé translates to the English present perfect, such as, “I have eaten.” The trick with the passé composé is it can also be translated as the English simple past, such as, “I ate,” or the emphatic past, such as, “I did eat.”
I’m lost all over again, but we’re going to keep going.
Generally speaking, and thanks to help online, the imperfect describes past situations, while passé composé narrates specific events. More specifically, there are rules to follow when using either, and indicators to help with the struggle.
-Habitual actions or states of being (I worked with my father last year)
-Physical and emotional descriptions: time, weather, age, feelings (When he was five, he was always hungry)
-Actions or states of an unspecified duration (He was hoping to see you before you left)
-Background information in conjunction with the passé composé (He was at the bank when he found it)
-Wishes or suggestions (How about going out tonight?)
-Conditions in si clauses – If-Then clauses (If he wanted to come, he would find a way)
– The expressions être en train de and venir de in the past (He had just arrived)
And here are a list of the French Imperfect conjugations, which I actually remember!
|Pronoun||Ending||parler > parl-||finir > finiss-||étudier > étudi-||manger > mange-||être > ét-|
-An action completed in the past (They have already eaten)
-An action repeated a number of times in the past (We’ve visited Paris several times)
-A series of actions completed in the past (When I arrived, I saw the flowers)
A list of French Passé Composé conjugations:
|AIMER (auxiliary verb is avoir)|
|j’||ai aimé||nous||avons aimé|
|tu||as aimé||vous||avez aimé|
|il, elle||a aimé||ils, elles||ont aimé|
|DEVENIR (être verb)|
|je||suis devenu(e)||nous||sommes devenu(e)s|
|tu||es devenu(e)||vous||êtes devenu(e)(s)|
|il||est devenu||ils||sont devenus|
|elle||est devenue||elles||sont devenues|
|SE LAVER (pronominal verb)|
|je||me suis lavé(e)||nous||nous sommes lavé(e)s|
|tu||t’es lavé(e)||vous||vous êtes lavé(e)(s)|
|il||s’est lavé||ils||se sont lavés|
|elle||s’est lavée||elles||se sont lavées|
Below is a key with words and phrases that generally associate themselves with either the imperfect or passé composé, making it easier to detect which one is being used.
|chaque semaine, mois, année||every week, month, year||une semaine, un mois, un an||one week, month, year|
|le week-end||on the weekends||un week-end||one weekend|
|le lundi, le mardi…||on Mondays, on Tuesdays…||lundi, mardi…||on Monday, on Tuesday|
|tous les jours||every day||un jour||one day|
|le soir||in the evenings||un soir||one evening|
|normalement||usually||tout à coup, tout d’un coup||all of a sudden|
|d’habitude||usually||une fois, deux fois…||once, twice…|
|en général, généralement||in general, generally||enfin||finally|
|souvent||often||finalement||in the end|
|parfois, quelquefois||sometimes||plusieurs fois||several times|
|de temps en temps||from time to time|
Whew. Look for a follow-up to this post later in the coming weeks!