The sequence of tenses when the main verb is in the passé composé or imperfect in French

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The sequence of tenses when the main verb is in the passé composé or imperfect

Rules about the sequence of tenses (la concordance des temps) apply to sentences containing two verbs. When the main verb (in the main clause) is in the passé composé or in the imparfait, the other verb (in the subordinate clause) goes by the following rules:

• for an action happening prior to the main one we use the plus-que-parfait.
Je croyais que le facteur était déjà passé. imparfait → plus-que-parfait I thought the postman had already come.
•  for an action happening after the main action we use the conditionnel présent.
Gérard nous a demandé pourquoi nous n’irions pas au bureau le lendemain. passé composé → conditionnel présent
Gérard asked us why we would not go to the office the following day.
•  for two simultaneous actions we generally use the imparfait:
Ce matin, j’ai regardé comment Victor préparait le poulet. passé composé → imparfait This morning, I watched how Victor was preparing the chicken.



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