Si tu ne la vois pas en revenant, c'est qu’elle ne pouvait plus attendre.

At the time of their conversation, she is still with them. There is a possibility, though, that she may be gone in the future, prompted by impatience.

Although the following two events will both take place in the future, the 2nd is considered to be in the past, at least vis-à-vis the 1st:

  1. Si tu ne la vois pas en revenant,

  2. c'est qu’elle ne pouvait plus attendre.

I wonder if the Imparfait "pouvait" is the only appropriate tense to use in this instance?

  • 2
    On peut utliser le futur antérieur: "Le futur antérieur peut s'employer avec le futur simple pour exprimer une action qui aura lieu avant une seconde action" la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com/regles/conjugaison/… La seconde action ici, le fait que "il" ne voit pas l'autre en revenant.: Si tu ne le vois pas en revenant, c'est qu'elle ne t'aura pas attendu.
    – P. O.
    Aug 12, 2017 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


I would venture:

Si tu ne la vois pas en revenant, c'est qu'elle n'aura plus pu attendre.

  • Hi. Indeed, I would normally expect to hear the Futur Antérieur. Is it unusual yet legitimate to use the Imparfait "pouvait" like this in place of the Futur Antérieur? Do they carry nuances of meaning? Aug 13, 2017 at 0:53
  • The imparfait sounds definitely legitimate and actually better to the ear than the futur anterieur in this particular case (n'aura plus pu looks to be a rare combination in French probably for lack of euphony, the reason why I wrote "venture".) As for nuances, elle ne pouvait plus attendre means she was unable to wait more while elle n'aura plus pu attendre can mean the statement is hypothetical.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 13, 2017 at 23:58

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