I have been having a lot of trouble trying to translate sentences like "Back then, I would go to the store every day", since I am unsure which tense to use.

Would you use present conditional?

À l'epoque, j'irais au magasin tous les jours

Would you use imparfait?

À l'epoque, j'allais au magasin tous les jours

Or passé composé?

À l'epoque, je suis allé au magasin tous les jours

It's all correct grammar in English, but I am unsure if it is in French.

2 Answers 2


If it's a past habit : use imparfait.

À l'époque, j'allais au magasin tous les jours.

"A l'époque" seems to span over a long time, and hence express a habit. Passé composé would be a meaningful candidate too if you were not starting with "à l'époque". If it were not a habit, but just a series of occurences over a short interval of time, like in "I fell in love with that sales assistant, and I went to the shop every day for a week", you could have said :

Cette semaine là, je suis allé au magasin tous les jours.

However, you'll be perfectly understood whichever you choose, none being felt as a mistake. The difference is meaningful if you're really looking to express a detailed connotation about going to the shop being a habit or not.

Conditional is inappropriate, unless you're talking about a past wish that never came true, in which case futur antérieur would be a more literate choice anyway.

  • Back then : « à cette époque » ou « en ce temps là ».
    – None
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 14:03

The imparfait is the correct choice.

As a rule of thumb, imparfait can be used to speak of events that spanned a substantial period of time in the past, while passé composé can be used to refer to specific events in the past.

Eg: Imparfait: "Je jouais au football quand j'habitais à Paris"

Passé composé: "J'ai joué au football avant-hier"

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