2

Vous avez l'air d'être l'un d'eux, comme je l'ai été moi-même, autrefois.

Vous avez l'air d'être l'un d'eux, comme je l'étais moi-même, autrefois.

The phrase "I used to be one of them myself" indicates that this particular state continued for an unknown period of time, rather than being a one-time event.

So I assumed that the use of Imparfait "je l'étais" might make more sense here, but it looks like "je l'ai été" is the correct form to use. I wonder why.

3

Both sentences are correct, the choice of the tense expresses a different aspect of the action.

  • Vous avez l'air d'être l'un d'eux, comme je l'ai été moi-même, autrefois.

    Passé composé: focuses on the action/state itself with no reference to the duration. It can mean it did not last long, but not necessarily.1

  • Vous avez l'air d'être l'un d'eux, comme je l'étais moi-même, autrefois.

    Imparfait: focuses on the duration of the action/state and implies it lasted for quite some time. The subject of the predicate, "je", is given more importance.2


If a translation into English is any help:
1 ..., as I once was.
2 ... as I used to be.

  • Regarding "The subject of the predicate is given more importance.", does this mean that the second version places emphasis on the word "je"? Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 3 '16 at 8:25
  • @LUNA, yes, it does in this sentence. I think it much depends on the context and the difference between passé composé and imparfait is often subtle. Here we must also consider that the passé composé refers to a past action and not to the present. – Laure Jul 3 '16 at 8:43

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