Bonjour tout monde,

Could you explain the grammar point behind the use of two tenses in

Je n'ai pas reçu le colis
Je ne recevais pas le colis

When do we use one over another ?

I often hear Je n'ai pas entendu, Je n'ai pas reçu, Je n'ai pas encore fini but wonder why we employ participe passé in this case.

I have read information about their difference on other occasions on Google, regarding activities that terminated in the past or not. Here what puzzles me is the negative form which still uses the passé composé. Different from J'ai terminé signals an activity finished in the past, when someone says Je n'ai pas encore terminé, at the moment, it still holds true "not done yet".

  • @Kareen I updated the question. It's more of the negative form that I would like to ask.
    – Kenny
    Dec 29, 2015 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


Better use: Je n'ai pas reçu le colis.

This is one finite action. There is no duration.

Dont use je ne recevais pas. only in particular cases: Je ne recevais pas les gros colis (parce que ma boîte aux lettres était petite).

With entendre, you can use the two forms:

  • je n'entendais pas. (I was not here, or other reason). It is a less frequent form, with more explanations.
  • je n'ai pas entendu. (It is past - I haven't heard). It is the most frequent form.
  • 1
    For je n'ai pas entendu what do you mean by It is finished now ? I still haven't heard and it still holds true at the moment I speak. For example I hear that a lot talking on telephone. If j'ai entendu then I agree that it has finished.
    – Kenny
    Dec 29, 2015 at 15:33
  • @Kenny. thanks, it is not clear. j'ai entendu / je n'ai pas entendu is the most current form. Dec 29, 2015 at 17:21

Participe passé is used for meaning something that occurred and finished (a finite action). Example : j'ai reçu le colis (I received it, done) Imparfait is used either to describe a situation or to mean something that is still occurring or that we are not sure it is finished. Example : je recevais le colis (meaning either to describe a situation like "at this time, I received the parcel, and then…" or an unfinished or repetitive action like "I used to receive it"). I hope it is clear enough.

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