2

I came upon this sentence while reading L’Étranger:

Je n’y suis presque plus allé.

Je suis allé is the indicatif passé composé form of the verb aller. As far as I know, this tense is used to express an action in the past which occurred either instantly or in a very short period of time. Indicatif imparfait on the other hand, expresses an action that was habitual, a periodic occurrence or was ongoing at the moment being being discussed. This sentence translates to ”I seldom went there.” or ”I hardly went there.” as per the English edition of the book. But, the fact that the narrator hardly ever went there is a habit and a general state of affairs in the past. I believe the correct tense to use here is the indicatif imparfait. Why is that not the case?

5

The English translations of:

Je n'y suis presque plus allé.

sounds odd to me. This sentence means neither "I hardly went there" (Je n'y suis presque pas allé) nor "I seldom went there" (J'y suis rarement allé) but:

"I almost stopped going there" (literally "I went almost no more there").

You suggest the imparfait should be used because the action wasn't instantaneous. It was actually kind of instantaneous. The statement relates a final decision or fact true from a single point of time.

With the imparfait:

Je n'y allais presque plus.

a follow-up is expected and it might even invalidate the statement. There is no guarantee he didn't change his mind later.

A third possibility for a past event verb is the passé simple.

Je n'y allai presque plus.

The meaning is fine, very close to the passé composé. One obvious issue is that this first person is homophone with the imparfait so introduces some ambiguity.

| improve this answer | |
  • You say “I hardly went there.” translates to “Je n’y suis presque pas allé.” But I think the French sentence means “I almost didn’t go there.” or “I have hardly gone there.” “I hardly went there.” should in my opinion be translated to “Je n’y allais presque pas.” What do you think? – Shashank Kumar May 6 at 4:03
  • An importantcpiece of information is lost when you replace ne ... pas by ne ... plus. That piece of information is expressed in English by the word "anymore". Compare "I don't go there" and "I don't go there anymore". – jlliagre May 6 at 8:06
  • C'est un bel exemple des valeurs de temps différentes entre le participe passé, l'imparfait et le preterit anglais. Je valide la réponse de @jliagre – Loïc Di Benedetto May 6 at 14:17
  • 1
    @jilliagre: 'An important piece of information is lost when you replace ne ... pas by ne ... plus. That piece of information is expressed in English by the word "anymore".' I agree with what I think you're intending to say, but I think you've expressed it the wrong way round, i.e. an important piece of information is lost when you replace ne ... plus by ne ... pas. That piece of information is expressed in English by "any more". – Harry Audus May 7 at 23:05
  • @HarryAudus Indeed, that's the other way around. – jlliagre May 7 at 23:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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