(French beginner here!)

I am struggling with the verbs and verb conjugation for this translation. I think it is imperfect conjugation of habiter, so I would write

J'habitais toute ma vie aux États-Unis.


J'habitais aux États-Unis ma vie entière.

Is either of these correct?

3 Answers 3


The imparfait doesn't work if only because you are still alive. The passé composé is the right tense assuming you want to keep toute ma vie so you might use one of:

J'ai habité aux États-Unis toute ma vie.

J'ai toujours habité aux États-Unis.

J'ai habité toute ma vie aux États-Unis.

See Imparfait or Passé Composé: “j'étais absent” or “j'ai été absent”?

Should you want to use the present, you can say:

J'habite depuis toujours aux États-Unis.

J'habite aux États-Unis depuis que je suis né.

The futur antérieur is also usable:

J'aurai habité toute ma vie aux États-Unis.

meaning "I will have lived in America my whole life".

  • Not "aux"? Really? I thought it was a typo but you wrote it twice... Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:04
  • Also I thought for sure that this would be present tense, like "j'habite toute ma vie aux e.u" just like "j'étudie fraçais depuis dix ans." Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:06
  • @temporary_user_name aux was typo, thanks for reporting it.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:18
  • @temporary_user_name The present doesn't work with "toute ma vie". It does with depuis...: e.g. j'étudie le français depuis dix ans.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 12:09
  • 1
    Why would the fact to be still alive discard the use of imparfait? Isn't it simply that the speaker still lives there ? "J'habitais aux Etats-unis quand j'étais enfant" is valid even though the speaker is still alive. I think there might be something with "toute ma/sa vie" also forcing you to use passé composé, dead or alive.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 12:25

In English, the present perfect (have + past participle) is used to describe present states, including states that persisted from the past to the present or the results of past actions. Thus, one cannot say, of a dead subject, he has dedicated, but one can say, I have lived here for ten years. However, French does not have an analogous tense. While the passé composé may appear to be constructed similarly, it is strictly used to describe the past. Similar logic applies to other temps composés, tenses that take auxiliary verbs.

To describe an action that continues to the present, one uses the present tense. Thus, from TLFi, we have the example:

Il était éveillé depuis six heures du matin. (He had been awake since six in the morning.)

However, literally, this is: He was awake since 6 AM. Note that this example describes a past state with the imparfait, not a present state (has been awake), but the concept still applies. Were it the present, we would write: Il est éveillé depuis six heures du matin.

In your example, I have lived in America my whole life, you are describing a state (have lived) that, absent other context, persists up to the present. Hence, in French, you should write something like:

J'habite aux États-Unis depuis toujours.

However, if you instead mean, Up until now, I lived in America my whole life, you should write something like:

Jusqu'aujourd'hui, j'ai habité aux États-Unis.

  • You could say "J'habite aux États Unis depuis toujours.", however, "J'habite aux États-Unis toute ma vie." is not at all correct. Also "jusqu'aujourdh'ui" is very much on the decline; much better is "jusqu"à aujourd'hui". books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – LPH
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 22:17
  • @LPH: Fair, that explains "toute ma vie" didn't quite sound right for me. Thanks for the pointer.
    – Maroon
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 22:18

You can use a literal translation.

  • J'ai vécu aux États-Unis toute ma vie.

"J'ai habité toute ma vie au États Unis." is not as common. You'd say rather this.

  • "J'ai habité aux États Unis toute ma vie.

This is also a good translation.

The preferential order of the complements is justified as the complement "toute ma vie" is not "essential" (explained in LBU).

Le complément adverbial essentiel est moins mobile. Il est plus souvent à la suite du verbe. Les déplacements ont besoin d'une raison particulière ; par ex., en tête de la phrase (ou de la proposition), cela correspond à une mise en évidence plus nette que pour les compléments non essentiels ou à un souci de marquer le lien avec ce qui précède.

In this case, you can't say "J'ai habité toute ma vie." but you can say "J'ai habité aux États Unis.". In reason of this you call the first complement "non essentiel" and the second "essentiel"

Another common rendering is the following.

  • J'ai passé toute ma vie aux États Unis.
  • Is not current ?? I guess you are trying to say "is not common*.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 23:36
  • Yes, "not current" in the sense of "not prevalent" but not in the sense of "being rejected" (this order is found sometimes). It might be better to say "not commn" though; I'll think about it.
    – LPH
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 23:42

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