A comparison of the tenses expressing past time in spoken French : imparfait versus passe compose
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This thesis presents a discussion of the functions of two French tenses expressing past time, imparfait (IMP) and passé composé (PC), as presented in three textbooks and by scholars followed by an analysis of their use in a corpus of spoken French. The corpus consists of five personal narratives told by native speakers of French which were audiotaped and then transcribed orthographically. The main purpose of using the corpus was to test the hypothesis that the major difference between IMP and PC is that IMP, expresses time-consuming actions and is used for qualitative descriptions, whereas the major function of PC is to indicate a fully terminated action that implies a result. It was found that the temporal factor indeed corresponds to the use of these tenses by native speakers, while all other factors traditionally imputed only to a specific tense proved to be interchangeable and thus unreliable.