Difference Between Imparfait and Passe Compose

Imparfait and Passe Compose are words that we can understand by reading are not English words. These two are French words that represent two tenses in the grammatical system of the French language. These words constitute two past tenses.

Imparfait represents what we can say in English as Imperfect tense. This kind of tense is employed for describing situations like continued actions that were repeated. Also, for example, any incomplete action or other events in the past. They form a big part of the French language and its grammatical structure.

Passe Compose represents what we can say in English as a simple past. They are one of the most common past tenses used in the French language. They can include sometimes present perfect and also indicate emphatic past tense. These sentences are used for describing proper and particular events that happened in the past.

Imparfait vs Passe Compose

The main difference between Imparfait and Passe Compose is that one describes the background situation in past while the other talks about a specific action that happened in the past tense. We can see that Imparfait talks about things like habitual actions in the past, while Passe Compose talks about some important activities completed in the past.

Imparfait and Passe Compose

Imparfait is a tense that can describe a descriptive scene of the past. It can also describe a particular situation that happened in the past. They can be repetitive or not. These sentences are used to talk about the weather or anyone’s age and can also be used to talk about past feelings.

Passe Compose is a type of past tense that is used in talking about things. They talk about actions that happened in the past or repeat a particular number of times. They are also used to say about an event that occurred in a series of actions in the past.

Comparison Table Between Imparfait and Passe Compose

Parameters of ComparisonImparfaitPasse Compose
EventsThese are used to describe a repeating or habitual event or situationThese are used to tell a particular or precise action that has taken place in the past
LengthThese gives a brief description of the situation or eventThese are much short kind of information that tells a particular action
FeaturesThese sentences are used for giving background informationThese give the information about the exact and main event that took place
DescribesThese kinds of sentences are used to describe a person, places, things, state of mind, etcThese kinds of sentences are used to describe a specific action that was repeated a specific number of times
ExampleIl parlait vite (He was speaking quickly)Je suis sorti (I went out)

What is Imparfait?

Imparfait is a kind of tense that is mainly used to describe sentences that are in the past and describes a repetitive action in the past which may or may not be incomplete. For example, we use this tense to describe a habitual action in the past.

Imparfait sentences are to describe a situation in the past, the weather or the time of a place. They are also used to describe background information of a situation, time, age, any kind of feelings in the past.

These sentences are formed by first conjugating the words to the present indicative nouns form, then by excluding the ending (-ons), the other is to be added. The endings are -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient. They are always in the same form for all verbs and is to be added by replacing the endings of the present indicative form.

Example: Quand j’etais plus jeune, j’adorais les glaces (When I was younger, I used to love ice cream). This is a repetitive action done in the past which don’t have a particular time or duration. These kinds of sentences are called Imparfait sentences.

What is Passe Compose?

Passe Compose sentences are used to describe sentences that are Passe Compose sentences are used to describe sentences that enriches us about a particular action that has taken place at a specific time. They help us mainly to understand one time events or actions that happened in the past. These are not repetitive action that forms a different nature from Imparfait.

These sentences are mainly used to describe an action but not in a very These sentences are mainly used to describe an action but not in a descriptive manner. These kinds of sentences are not lengthy if we compare. These are straightforward sentences with a particular time, place or information that happened in the past.

They are used for talking about the main event of the story rather than the background descriptions that is where it differs from Imparfait. This is straightforward proper information about an action. They talk about a significant part of the situation in the past.

Example: Elle este arrivee hier (she arrived yesterday). This sentence talks of the main event and with complete information of time. These kinds of sentences are the Passe compose. The conjugation of these sentences is done with a different process too.

Main Differences Between Imparfait and Passe Compose

  1. Imparfait is tense to describe an action that can be incomplete in the past. Passe compose is a tense that describes acts that are accomplished in the past.
  2. Imparfait sentences describe repetitive, habitual actions. Passe Compose sentences can describe repetitive but not habitual actions.
  3. Imparfait sentences describe actions that do not have any specific time duration or specific time, while Passe compose describes actions that have specific actions.
  4. The conjugation of Imparfait is different from what we see in Passe Compose.
  5. The conjugation of Imparfait is much easy to learn. Passe composes is a little complex when I compared it.
  6. Imparfait sentences are less used when we compare the use in the french language. Passe Compose is used more in the past tense in the French language.


Both tenses form a big part in the past tense. Mastering both of these tenses is a significant thing to learn the language. Both tenses have their features and situations where they are used. These both are different and cannot replace one another.

Imparfait have different situations where we can only use these situations. For example, to describe or talk about a habit in the past time. Passe Compose, on the other also have its situations where it should be used. For example, to describe the main event that happened in a particular time or duration in the past. These both are different and have their importance.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/393688
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0026-7902.00106
  3. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/ling.1996.34.5.1059/html
  4. https://www.jstor.org/stable/391630
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