I think he was right/wrong.

Is it correct to translate this as

(a) Je pense qu'il avait raison/tort.


(b) Je pense qu'il a eu raison/tort.

I'm not sure if being right/wrong should be considered as an event (which would require the passé composé) or a state (which would require the imparfait). Or can it be either depending on the context?

1 Answer 1


It can be both. For example, as a state (or context):

Quand il nous a expliqué que ce ne serait pas possible, je pense qu'il avait raison.

As an event (or a step in the narration):

On lui a dit de vendre la maison. Il a eu raison de ne pas le faire. Depuis les prix des logements ont flambé.

  • The first sentence feels more like an event to me than a state, since he is right about his explanation (thus, only about a specific thing at a specific time). Why is it a state/context to you?
    – pi66
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 18:17
  • You have to understand the first sentence as “I think he was right (all along) while he was explaining”. Interestingly you could also say "Il nous a expliqué que ce ne serait pas possible et je pense qu'il a eu raison” but the meaning is really distinct. In this case it can only be understood as “I think he was right (to choose) to explain it to us”. Commented May 8, 2016 at 18:28
  • It was a state in that it wasn't just a single event transpiring. The difference between the imparfait and the passé composé, you can see the different between whether it is stated as something which occurred continually or as a single event. @pi66 Commented May 8, 2016 at 19:03

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