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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is-- How do you know when to use le passé composé or l’imparfait?
There are two commonly used past tenses in French-- the passé composé “the past perfect” and the imparfait “the imperfect.”
The passé composé is made up of an auxiliary verb, either être, meaning “to be” or avoir, “to have,” plus the main verb in the participe passé or “past participle” form. The imparfait just uses the main verb in the imparfait form.
Let’s do some examples so you can learn how to use le passé composé and l’imparfait correctly.
When telling a story in the past, the passé composé is used for the sequence of events. These are specific events that happened at a certain time, like, J'ai mangé une pomme. meaning “I ate an apple.”
The imparfait is used for describing context or circumstances that happened within that timeframe. For example, Je mangeais une pomme, “I was eating an apple.”
You’ll often use the imparfait and the passé composé together in the same sentence. The imparfait illustrates the context and the passé composé is the disruption of an action.
For example, this sentence uses both-- Je mangeais une pomme quand Loïc a appelé. meaning “I was eating an apple when Loïc called.” Je mangeais une pomme sets the scene-- "I was eating an apple." Quand means "when," that's the interruption.
The interruption is a time-specific event, so we use the passé composé-- Loïc a appelé. meaning "Loic called."
Pretty interesting right?
If you have anymore questions, please don't hesitate to leave them in the comments!
A bientôt, see you soon