French Grammar

Past tenses

What is the difference between ‘je pus’ and ‘ je pouvais’? Ie what is difference between the Past imperfect and Past perfect tenses?


  • Hi great and interesting question !

    I just checkd in wordreference for translating the name of the tense : French - English

    Passé simple = simple past :
    Passé composé = perfect tense
    Imparfait = imperfect tense

    Also : je pus = simple past - je pouvais : imprerfect tense

    Past perfect : someting that happened in the past but once : quand je fus à Paris, l'année dernière, je pus voir la Tour Eiffel
    Past imperfect : something that happened in the past but 'continualy' = used for habits or unfinished action : quand j'étais à Paris, je pouvais voir la Tour Eiffel

    simple past: it's like the Preterit in English
    Pas imperfect : for me it doesn't exist in English : the best comparison is using the progressive form in the past

    IMPORTANT : simple past is used in literature but not in the current life
    When you speak with a French, never use the simple past, because the form of this tense souds very odd even it's grammatically correct

    Use the perfect tense = passé composé

    Exemple : Yesterday I met some friends and drank a beer together

    The correct translation in French :
    Hier, nous rencontrâmes des amis et bûmes une bière ensemble (never use it !)
    Actually, you should say :
    Hier nous avons rencontré des amis et nous avons bu une bière ensemble

    I hope it will help you

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