For what I mean by "emphasis on the result of an action," please consider this pair of questions:

Have you been to Paris?
Were you in Paris?

The first one may be said to have an "emphasis" on your now knowing what Paris is like as a result of your visit, an emphasis not found in the second line.

This Web page by lingolia.com states that the French passé composé has such an "emphasis" (the Web page captured below).

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I ask the question because most explanations of the passé composé do not mention this "emphasis on the result." For example, none of these:

The only exception I have found is the Web page from Lingolia.com, as above.

My question as restated is then: Should I accept lingolia.com's representation of the French passé composé as having an emphasis on the result of an action?


I believe the question may also be equivalent to asking whether the passé composé can (usually does, often does etc.) have a resultative aspect in addition to any perfective it might have; but please never mind this terminology unless it is helpful.

  • Lingolia states "in every day language, the passé composé is often used instead of the passé simple". That's quite an understatement. The passé simple is never used in conversational French.
    – jlliagre
    Jul 9, 2018 at 19:40
  • "Have you been to Paris?" might translate to one of Tu es allé à Paris ?, Tu es déjà allé à Paris ?, Tu as été à Paris ?, Tu as déjà été à Paris ? (either of these can be prefixed by Est-ce que) while "Were you in Paris?" would translate to Tu étais à Paris ?
    – jlliagre
    Mar 10, 2019 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


French [english]

Le passé composé est l'équivalent du passé simple dans un récit au passé, lorsqu'on évoque des faits qui se sont produits avant le moment où l'on parle : [The French perfect tense is the equivalent of the past historic in a tale of the past, when one speaks of facts that occurred before the present moment:]

Hier, il avait beaucoup de travail ; il a terminé ses devoirs à huit heures.

On pourrait dire : [One could say:]

Hier, il avait beaucoup de travail ; il termina ses devoirs à huit heures.

Le passé simple s'emploie comme cela dans la langue écrite ; fiction, ouvrages historiques, presse - mais pas toujours !- alors que le passé composé s'emploie plutôt dans la langue oral. [The simple past is used in this way in the written language; fiction, historical works, press-but not always!- whereas the past historic is used rather in the oral language.]

Le passé composé n'est plus l'équivalent du passé simple lorsqu'il est employé dans un récit au présent : [The perfect is no longer the equivalent of the past historic when used in a narrative in the present tense:]

Il est huit heures ; il a terminé son travail et décide d'aller se promener.

On ne peut pas dire : [one cannot say:]

Il est huit heures : il termina son travail et décide d'aller se promener.

L'emploi du passé composé permet ici de mettre l'accent sur l'achèvement de l'action et sut les conséquences dans le moment présent. [The use of the Perfect here makes it possible to emphasize the completion of the action and the consequences felt in the present moment.]

(Référence: Grammaire: Les Guides. Le Robert & Nathan.)

  • 1
    The bit on "Il est huit heures ; il a terminé son travail et décide d'aller se promener" was particularly helpful. Thanks.
    – Catomic
    Jul 10, 2018 at 4:08

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