I'm trying to learn French by myself (now reading Karl C. Sandburg's book French for Reading), and got confused in the three "past time" tenses: Past Definite (PD), Imperfect (I), and Past Indefinite (PI).

As the book says,

  1. PI could be translated into English Simple Past Tense (I spoke) or The Perfect Tense (I have spoken) , however, when to choose which is unclear;

  2. PD could only be translated into English Simple Past Tense (I spoke), however, the difference between PI and PD is unclear, so translating from English to French is my problem;

  3. The Imperfect (I) could be translated into English Simple Past Tense (I spoke), Past Continuous Time (I was speaking), or I used to spoke, and the usage is summarized as 3 cases -- a) past description or characterization , e.g. Sa maîtresse pas une personne agréable (Her mistress was not a pleasant person), Sa maison se trouvait entre un passage et une ruelle (Her house was situated/found between a passage way and an alley) ; b) customary or habitual past action, e.g. Elle se levait dès l'aube.(She would/used to get up at dawn.); c) action incomplete (in progress ) at a specified or implied moment in the past , e.g. Alors qu'il se promenaient , ils virent venir à eux des hommes armés. (While they were strolling, they saw some armed men coming toward them.) , -- but these seems overlapping with PD, what's the difference between them?

So I got confused , what's exactly the differences among them? Without figuring this out I could only read French and randomly translate them to a particular English tense; and vice versa.

closed as too broad by Laure SO - Écoute-nous, Patrick Sebastien, Yellrag, Random, qoba Aug 10 '16 at 6:51

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


Found this website that will help you better than I can

I have never heard of Passed Definite and Passed indefinite. In school I learned about Imparfait, Passé simple, Passé composé.

  • Thx but.... Anything in English? – athos Aug 16 '16 at 5:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.