elle voulait louer une couchette. Elle a voulu louer une couchette

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Tenorman

Senior Member
English. United Kingdom.
Can someone tell me the difference between these two, please?
Surely they both mean 'she wanted to hire a bed'
merci d'avance. TM
 
  • joleen

    Senior Member
    french / france
    They do.
    When you say "elle a voulu louer une couchette", it involves one precise moment whereas "elle voulait louer une couchette" means that at some point, (maybe every night, maybe she was just thinkin about it and didn't do it).

    I don't know if the difference is clear:
    elle a voulu : it was a precise action, something done
    elle voulait: maybe she did it, maybe she didn't , maybe it was all the time: she didn't have anywhere to sleep and she wanted to hire a bed...
     

    Avignonaddict

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I always check my choice of tense by trying 'used to' with the 'imperfect' ending. Thus 'elle voulait...' 'she used to want to hire a couchette', in contrast to 'elle a voulu...' 'she wanted to hire'.

    The perfect tense is, as Joleen says, used for a single event or incident - compare 'j'ai acheté du pain ce matin' (once) with ' j'achetais deux baguettes chaque jour' (repeatedly)

    Hope that helps.


     

    Tenorman

    Senior Member
    English. United Kingdom.
    Thank you both. Yes i understand what you have both said, but i'm going to give a little more context.
    I've taken elle voulait louer une couchette.from a text book in which a husband, who works in a railway ticket office, is telling his wife of his difficult day.
    He states 'Elle voulait louer une couchette' (referring to a passenger booking an overnight train journey) But he wouldn't be saying ' She used to want to hire a bed', would he?
    I'm sorry. I'm probably being a bit slow here.
    TM
     

    Avignonaddict

    Senior Member
    English - British
    My (non-francophone) hunch is that the woman was tedious, so the transaction continued seemingly interminably. But wait for native speakers!


     

    joleen

    Senior Member
    french / france
    Ok. More context is always usefull. Now the husband narrates his day. It's the tense that would be chosen in a book for a description: "elle se levait à 8h. elle prenait son petit-déjeuner. elle faisait la vaisselle puis elle partait au travail."
    The imperfect there is the tense used to tell a story.
     

    Tenorman

    Senior Member
    English. United Kingdom.
    Ah right. Thank you so much. That is very revealing and, i suspect, the source of some confusion among people at my stage.
    Merci beaucoup.
    TM
     

    Jean-Michel Carrère

    Senior Member
    French from France
    elle voulait louer une couchette : she meant to do it, she wanted to do it (we don't actually know whether she actually did).

    elle a voulu louer une couchette : she tried to do it, but couldn't for some reason.
     

    viera

    Senior Member
    English/French/Slovak
    In this instance, these two tenses are used for two simultaneous actions in the past, one lasting some time (imparfait) and a shorter one (passé composé).

    Pendant que je marchais dans la rue, un pot de fleurs m'est tombé sur la tête.

    Julien faisait ses devoirs lorsque sa mère est rentrée.

    Elle voulait louer une couchette. Alors je lui ai demandé dans quel train elle voulait partir.
     
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