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Le Passé Past

Now would be a good time to study the passe composé in the conjugation guide. The passe composé is used to report activities that have finished.

Le chauffeur a arrêté le moteur.
The driver turned the engine off.

Nous avons marché jusqu'à la gare.
We walked to the station.

Le président a donné un discours.
The president gave a speech.

La serveuse m'a amené un verre d’eau.
The waitress brought me a glass of water.

The imperfect (see imperfect conjugations) is used to describe background activities, which in the time frame of the story haven't been completed and are ongoing.

Le président donnait un discours quand il a commencé à pleuvoir .
The president was giving a speech when it began to rain.

Le serveur m'amenait un plat d'escargots, quand il est tombé et a laissé tomber le plat. Les petits escargots étaient partout.
A waiter was bringing a plate of snails when he slipped and dropped the plate. The little snails were everywhere..

The imperfect is normally used to describe characteristics or lasting qualities as these tend to be ongoing.

Le film était très long et ennuyeux.
The film was long and boring.

L'enfant boitait à cause de l'accident.
The child limped because of the accident.

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