FR: Elle avait une très bonne moyenne

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by stumosis, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. stumosis New Member

    English
    Hello. I'm new to the language and unsure about a sentence

    'Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne au 1er trimestre mais elle a chuté depuis.'

    1. Is 'avoir' imperfect because of the presence of the passe composé?

    2. Is this correct by itself?: Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne au 1er trimestre.



    Thank you
     
  2. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think the verb is in the imperfect because the action described - of "having an overall grade" - is temporally diffuse. It names an ongoing series of actions instead of one action with a definite beginning and end.

    You could say in English "She was maintaining her GPA for the first semester but her grades have declined since then." The same kind of time relationship - stretchy and diffuse vs. well-established starting and ending points - goes on in the French sentence.
     
  3. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    France
    French
    Hi,

    The Imperfect tense is correct on its own, but it sounds ambiguous. There are basically two different contexts in which this sentence could come up.

    • The first one is a "present-day" conversation : "Hey what's up? Did you know that Sandy's average mark used to be very good?" (Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne avant). Here, it implies a past habit, something that used to be true but no longer is.

    • The second one is a narrative written in the past (in a novel, for instance) : "Le premier trimestre était difficile, mais Sandy travaillait dur. C'était une jeune fille très sérieuse. Elle avait une très bonne moyenne". Here, it means that when the author was writing that text, Sandy's average was very good (at that time). So here, I think Lucas' suggestion works pretty well (She was maintaining...), or perhaps Sandy's average would be very good (given that would be expresses a past habit, something that was going on at that time).
     
  4. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    I'm sorry, but "Her average would be very good" would not be comprehensible as a past tense without a lot of context, including parallel structure with other verbs conjugated using a past tense would in the same sentence.

    e.g.,
    When our report cards came home, my brother would always have As in math and science, my sister's GPA would be very good, and mine would be abominable.
    Lors de la remise des bulletins, mon frère avait toujours plus de 17 en maths et en science, ma sœur avait une très bonne moyenne et mes résultats étaient toujours abominables.

    Otherwise, your listener will hear a true conditional in an incomplete if-then statement (sa moyenne serait très bonne si X était le cas), and will expect you to finish the thought.

    Generally speaking, it's difficult to use would to give past aspect to the verb to be without a continuous tense or a lot of context.
     
  5. koala1230 Junior Member

    Taipei
    Taiwan/Chinere
    Hi,

    The thing you have posted is correct, and the opinion for your first question is mentioned as follows:


    l’imparfait: used for narrative or an even which was happened for a period
    passé composé: used for realizing an action important in past or an even which was happened suddenly

    Comparing the ideas as above, you might understand why “avoir” should be in l’imparfait.
    For the sentence, using these different tenses could emphasize the period of getting worse is much shorter than keeping in good score.

    In this case, you might also say :
    “Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne au 1er trimestre mais elle chutais depuis. ”
    It’s also correct grammatically, but because the used tenses are all l’imparfait, we can not recognize which even is shorter. So, to understand the timing of l’imparfait and passé composé will make the sentence more vivid, and readers will much easier to realized what is the main point of the sentence.
     
  6. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    That “rule” of duration is sometimes taught to non natives to help them decide choosing the right tense, but it is actually impractical and sometimes even incorrect! As a matter of fact, you may use the imparfait for events lasting for only a split second while you can use the passé composé for events lasting for years. This is really a matter of context. For example:

    Il regardait une étoile filante quand son téléphone sonna.
    Il a travaillé vingt ans dans cette entreprise.
    I'm afraid this is incorrect — even if correcting the verb conjugation to elle chutait.

    If you mean that Sandy's average was very good and that her grades have declined, you should say:

    Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne au premier trimestre, mais elle a chuté depuis.

    If you mean that Sandy's average was very good and that her grades have been declining ever since, you should say:

    Sandy avait une très bonne moyenne au premier trimestre, mais elle n'arrête pas de chuter depuis.

    If you mean that her average had been very good and that her grades had declined since then, you should say:

    Sandy avait eu une très bonne moyenne au premier trimestre mais elle avait chuté depuis.

    P.S.: The sentence in French is a somewhat ambiguous because elle may refer to moyenne or Sandy. ;)
     
  7. stumosis New Member

    English
    Thanks to everyone for the responses. very, very helpful guys!
     

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