L'imparfait du mode indicatif

johnL

Senior Member
USA, English
Hello.
In trying to understand l'imparfait du mode indicatif, I was looking in a friend's textbook, and found: "L'imparfait est un temps du passé. Il s'emploie pour une action qui dure..." (among other things). I thought I understood this, until I read the example: "La neige tombait sans cesse."

Is this sentence saying that the snow is still falling? As in the English, "It was falling, and it is still falling?"

If so, would "La neige est tombée" mean that the snow was falling but it stopped?

Thanks very much.
 
  • 1000stars

    Member
    English
    I thought, Imparfait describes something, the daily routine of something. So what I'm thinking is. . .the sentence is describing the weather? That's what my teacher told me.
    "La neige est tombee" does mean snow fell but it stopped. That is passe compose.
    Imparfait as you said...it is still falling.
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    La neige tombait sans cesse. = The snow kept falling.
    La neige est tombée. = Snow has fallen.
     
    Hello.
    In trying to understand l'imparfait du mode indicatif, I was looking in a friend's textbook, and found: "L'imparfait est un temps du passé. Il s'emploie pour une action qui dure..." (among other things). I thought I understood this, until I read the example: "La neige tombait sans cesse."

    Is this sentence saying that the snow is still falling? As in the English, "It was falling, and it is still falling?"

    If so, would "La neige est tombée" mean that the snow was falling but it stopped?

    Thanks very much.
    Hi JohnL,

    The snow was falling continuosly - imperfect. It carried on snowing without stopping.

    La neige est tombée pendant la nuit. PerfectOops! Passé composé. :eek: It snowed during the night but has now stopped.

    LRV
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The idea is "At that time, the snow was falling without end".

    It may or may not have stopped falling, but that's irrelevant. We are talking about a moment before the present.
     

    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Hi. I think your book did not mention a very important thing : The action does not need to last or not, what is important is whether or not you want to express that it lasts.
    Every action lasts some time. If you want to express it, then you use the imperfect tense. If it is irrelevant for what you mean, then you should use another tense.
     

    johnL

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I thank all of you for your input. I feel like I know a little more about this, but I also know that I don't have a grasp on it. So I will try to find some more examples, as that may be what I need.
    If anyone has more to add, I would definitely appreciate it.

    Thanks again.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The choice between the imparfait and the passé composé (or passé simple) is often not based on completion per se, but rather determined by the speaker's perspective.

    If the speaker wishes to present an event as ongoing, he will use the imparfait (not-yet-finished). If he wishes to present an event as a point in time (no-sooner-had-it-begun-than-it-ended), possibly in relation to another event, he will use the passé composé or the passé simple.

    I hope this helps.
     

    Markus

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    One way to help get a grasp on the difference is to translate verbs in the imparfait with was Xing and in the passé composé with the normal simple past in English. For example :
    Il mangeait = He was eating
    Il a mangé = He ate / He has eaten
    This doesn't always work, and you can never do a proper translation without a full sentence, but it's a rough guideline to help understand. You will often seen the imparfait used in conjunction with the passé composé in a sentence to show that event A occurred during event B. We do the same thing in English. For example:
    Caroline was watching TV when the phone rang.
    Caroline regardait la télévision quand le téléphone a sonné.
    If you can grasp the difference between these two forms in English in sentences such as these you'll be well on your way to understanding it in French. Good luck!
     
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