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If I go somewhere and want to say, “I’ve been here before” or “I‘ve never been here before,” is it

better to use “ai été” or “avais été”?  In other words, if the event is taking place at the time of

utterance, should the plus-que-parfat be used rather than the passé composé?

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I  don't think  that  it is true (that" the  event is taking place at the time of

utterance" )  in the examples you have given (I’ve been here before or “I‘ve never been here before” ) 

-which I would translate with a simple past and not a pluperfect. (j'ai été or  je n'ai jamais été).

The 'event is taking place at the time of utterance' because I "am here' when I am saying this.

Other examples are:

I've never eaten mushrooms before. (said while eating mushrooms for the first time)

I've already seen this movie. (said while viewing the movie)


Because I've heard such sentences expressed with the pluperfect (rather than the present perfect), I am simply wondering whether native speakers of French find this usage common!! 

that is a bit comical if I may so so (The 'event is taking place at the time of utterance' because I "am here' when I am saying this.) Where else could you be?

I do find the pluperfect difficult to explain but quite easy to use  once you hear (and understand) it a few times.

"Je n'avais jamais vu ce film!"  said at the moment of seeing the film is a little different to "Je n'ai jamais vu ce film!" . The first expression is more emphatic .

One thing that might help is that if you use a pluperfect, then there is an implication that there is some "intervening event" between the event described in the pluperfect and the current time.

So if I say "Je n'avais jamais vu ce film", it implies that I am envisaging time split into 3 "portions", in chronological order:

  • (a) some time prior to a past event,
  • (b) a past event occurring after event (a) --  e.g. me seeing the film, or not being able to see the film because I got to the cinema and realiesd I had no money on me etc
  • (c) the present time.

The pluperfect describes situations in the timeframe (a), whereas the passé composé tends to describe situations in timeframe (b).

The pluperfect is normally used to refer to something that occurred prior to a past reference point.  (À dix heures j’avais déjà vu le film  - By 10:00, I had already seen the movie.)


If the past reference point is construed as the beginning point of something that continues into the present time (= time of utterence), then we have your situation “a.”  (J’avais déjà vu ce film – said while viewing the movie).  In such instances (e.g., I’ve (never) been here before; I’ve (never) eaten mushrooms before [said while eating mushrooms for the first time]), the pluperfect seems to be common also in the three other major Romance languages, namely, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Yes -- in e.g. the case of "J'avais déjà vu ce film" said while actually watching the movie, then point (b) would be e.g. the point at which you started watching the movie this time.

In British English, it wouldn't be uncommon in that case to also say e.g. "I saw this film before" or indeed "I'd already seen this film".

I am joining this thread by opening up a whole can of worms on this discussion, so fogive me and here goes:  Some verbs take "etre" and not "avoir" when formulating the passé composé.  Isn't "etre" one of them?  Also, I have heard people using a reflexive construction when using "etre".  Therefore, if I were going to say "I have been here" I think I would say "Je me suis ete ici". (I apologize for not being able to use the correct diacritical marks, but you know where they go.)  And "I have never been here" would then be "je ne me suis jamais ete ici."  I, too, would like to know which is correct.  Of course, I also would simply use the past and say "j'etais ici or 'je n'etais pas ici" (I was here; I was not here)

Etre does not take etre as its auxiliary in the passé composé. Below is a really helpful website. This page in particular should help you.

You don't want the plus-que-parfait here; this translates as 'i had done something'.

E.g. 'j'avais cuisiné un repas' = 'i had cooked a meal'.

It describes something that has already happened before the main event.

E.g. 'si j'avais attaché mon ceinture de securité, je n'aurais pas cassé ma jambe' = 'if i had worn my seatbelt, i wouldn't have broken my leg'.

French doesn't distinguish between the past simple (i ate) and the past perfect (i have eaten).

Therefore the translation for 'i have been' is the same as for 'i went': 'je suis allé(e)'.

Note that the verb aller takes etre as its auxiliary when forming the past participle.

I'm not going to translate the whole phrase since I don't want to give you false information - i'm not quite sure about the placing of 'already' (déjà) and 'here'... (ici/y).

Right--and after I posted I realized that I was thinking of "aller" when I wrote about "etre", as in your phrase "je suis allee (I went)".


Thanks for the clarification.

J'ai été voir la tour eiffel is the same thing that Je suis allé voir la tour eiffel.


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