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FR: il a fait chaud / il faisait chaud

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Icetrance, Feb 12, 2007.

  1. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Thank you both very much! I appreciate your help.

    It's similar to the same situation:

    Il a fait chaud l'été dernier (stressing that it is over with)

    Il faisait chaud l'éte dernier (just describing the state; duration has not importance)
     
  2. DavePhilly Senior Member

    Philadelphia,Pa, USA
    Belgium - French
    Unfortunately, Icetrance, tenses are far from being clear-cut in French, as they are in English. In your last example:

    "Il a fait chaud l'été dernier (stressing that it is over with)

    Il faisait chaud l'éte dernier (just describing the state; duration has not importance)"

    your explanation does not correspond to the reality of modern French. I could use both sentences to either stress something or describe the state or the duration of the action, depending on what I say before and after that sentence. In spoken French, the differences between imparfait and passé composé are very fuzzy.

    You could say: "Il faisait chaud l'été dernier. Je suis resté tout le mois de juillet enfermé à la maison!", clearly talking about duration here.
     
  3. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Hello,

    This is a topic that is often raised. Although there are cases when it is very clear which past tense must be used (imperfect or passé composé) in French, there are also cases in which it is not always black and white - even for French natives. In some situations, it comes down to how the speakers is viewing the past.

    The passé composé does not always explicitly answer the question "What happened?", even though one can say it does so implicitly.

    Here are a few situations which may help to explain the above statement.

    Il a fait chaud l'été dernier > context = stressing that last summer's hot weather is over (viewed in its entirety from beginning to end)

    Il faisait chaud l'été dernier > context = making the point that it was hot last summer without focusing on its duration (just describing it was hot as summer was unfolding)

    J'ai aimé mon professeur le semestre dernier > context = stressing that the last semester is over, and I liked my professor over this period of time.

    J'aimais mon professeur le semestre dernier > context = describing that you liked your teacher last semester without focusing on the "beginning to end" of this liking for your professor.

    Ça a été une semaine agréable > context = stressing that this week is over with, and it was pleasant (no imperfect example here; you should know why by now)

    Another example:

    Il a y eu beaucoup de circulation la semaine dernière > context = stressing that that last week is over, and there was a lot of traffic then (block of time)

    There are cases where it is very clear as to which past tense must be used ("I used to..." or "I was x-ing")

    Not only does the passé composé indicate what happened, it also captures a chunk of time (from its beginning to its end), stressing that some action/state is now complete or over. This is not the case at all with imperfect, which completely ignores temporal duration.

    No, it is not always clear-cut, but I believe that there is a way to explain it.
     
  4. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Often, if French, you hear: Il y avait beaucoup de circulation l'autre jour.

    But, one can say "Il y a eu beaucoup de circulation l'autre jour" to emphasize that yesterday's heavy traffic is over with.

    Pour ma part, le passé composé employé dans la seconde phrase met en valeur que la grosse circulation hier est finie (la circulation s'est ensuite améliorée) tandis que l'imparfait ne fait que décrire la situation sur les routes l'autre jour.

    Ai-je tort?
     
  5. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Please give a few examples so I can better understand this.

    Yes, context is everything. But, I'd like an example where you'd use:

    "Il y a fait chaud"

    "il y a eu beaucoup de circulation"

    I thought my explanation was for the most part correct, but I now I am far from sure.
     
  6. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    I think it all comes down to this:

    Il a fait chaud hier > stressing that yesterday's heat is over with/or a sudden change in the weather

    Il y a eu beaucoup de circulation hier > stressing that yesterday's heavy traffic is over/sudden change in the amount of traffic

    That's the only way I can "mettre des mots là-dessus"
     

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