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I need to write "she looked/seemed very different" but don't know the past tense of avoir l'air. Any help?

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3 Answers 3

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Depending on the context

Elle avait l'air très différente (imparfait)

Elle a eu l'air très différente. (passé composé)

The passé simple (past historic) is barely used in everyday French and there are more important tenses to care about. Last but not least, for questions like this you can use deepl.

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You have two choices, one that is proper in a literary context, and one that can nowadays be used in that context, but which is still the only choice in everyday speech; those are respectively the "passé simple" and the "passé composé". (conjugaison de « avoir »)

We had been talking together for a while when suddenly she looked very different.

  • Il y avait un moment que nous parlions ensemble lorsque tout d'un coup elle eut l'air ne plus être la même du tout. (Passé simple)
  • Il y avait un moment que nous parlions ensemble lorsque tout d'un coup elle a eu l'air de ne plus être la même du tout. (Passé composé)
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You could also translate "look/seem" by "sembler". Depending on the context :

Elle semblait très différente (imparfait)

Elle sembla très différente (passé simple)

Elle a semblé très différente (passé composé)

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    You say it depends on the context. Maybe you can elaborate on that?
    – XouDo
    Sep 17, 2021 at 8:46
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    As highlighted by other posts, the tense will change depending on what surrounds the sentence, e.g. "She looked/seemed very different from her ID picture." (here I would use imparfait) and "She looked/seemed very different when she realized who I was." (here I would use passé simple in written or passé composé orally).
    – FloT
    Sep 20, 2021 at 16:46

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