When to use Devoir: Passé Composé vs Imparfait

when to use devoir

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In this grammar lesson you will learn about when to use devoir.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • devoir in the passé composé
  • devoir in the imparfait
  • how devoir is used in French sentences
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use devoir
  • how to practice with flashcards for when to use devoir
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn French

Please refer to the French A2 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about how this fits in A1 grammar.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use devoir in French!

Table of Contents

Devoir in Passé Composé

You use devoir in the passé composé to show that a past action has been done or completed.

  • devoir in passé composé = had to [do] / must have [done]

J’ai dû étudier hier.

I had to study yesterday.

Il a dû danser la semaine dernière.

He had to dance last week.

Elle a dû le terminer pour vous.

She must have finished it for you.

In each of the three sentences, the action has been completed.

Please read up on devoir conjugation in the passé composé, if you need a refresher on the topic.

Devoir in the Imparfait

You use devoir in the imparfait to refer to a past action, without mentioning if that action has been completed.

Generally speaking, this action has NOT been completed.

  • devoir in imparfait = was supposed to [do]

Afterwards, I will compare and contrast the two, so it will be easier for you to understand the differences.

Je devais étudier hier.

I was supossed to study yesterday.

Il devait danser la semaine dernière.

He was supposed to dance last week.

Elle devait le terminer pour vous.

She was supossed to finished it for you.

In each of the three sentences, the action has NOT been completed.

Please read up on devoir conjugation in the imparfait, if you need a refresher on the topic.

Sentences Overview of When to Use Devoir

The final section of this lesson on when to use devoir is about seeing the it in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding on when to use devoir in French through examples.

Here you can find all of the sentences used, neatly organised in one place.

J’ai dû étudier hier.

I had to study yesterday.

Je devais étudier hier.

I was supossed to study yesterday.

Il a dû danser la semaine dernière.

He had to dance last week.

Il devait danser la semaine dernière.

He was supposed to dance last week.

Elle a dû le terminer pour vous.

She must have finished it for you.

Elle devait le terminer pour vous.

She was supossed to finished it for you.

Quiz Yourself on When to Use Devoir

At the end of every lesson you can do a small quiz.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

How to Practice With Flashcards for This Lesson

Using flashcards is an absolute necessity when it comes to learning a language!

It is the best way to memorize what you learn, you can personalize your progression because it adapts to your actions, and all flashcards have audio to improve your hearing and pronunciation.

Please read our article on how to learn a new language for more information on flashcards and the best way to learn a new language.

There are two ways to practice with Flashcards for this lesson.

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

Anki is a free software with which you can create and practice flashcards.

After you have downloaded Anki, you can get our French A2 Anki Deck.

This Anki Deck contains 3,816 flashcards with which you can practice absolutely everything for French A2.

All the flashcards have text, images, explanations, and audio.

You can also use our courses that have flashcards integrated alongside lessons with audio, quizzes and much more!

However, I am sure you are wondering, what are your courses, and why should I take them?

The Courses of Language Atlas

Have you ever wondered what the best way is to learn a new language?

I have been learning languages for over 20+ years and I was always frustrated with books, courses, and classes that I had tried.

It never really seemed to work for me.

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So I thought, “why not make something myself?“.

Using my experience and by doing research I created Language Atlas, a platform where people can learn French and Spanish in the most effective and efficient way.

I created free lessons and quizzes so that there would always be a easy and accessible way for people to learn or brush up on their language skills.

However, I also created courses that are much more comprehensive and in-depth.

These courses are easy to follow, clear, and allow you to become fluent in the most effective and efficient way.

The courses of Language Atlas have:

  • 800+ Lessons with audio
  • 800+ Quizzes
  • 10,000 Flashcards with explanations, images, and audio
  • A gamified way of learning a new language
  • A vibrant community (including support from me)

You can register for free and try the French A0/A1 and Spanish A0/A1 Courses for free!

This includes over 60 lessons and quizzes, 500 flashcards that adapt to how you learn, and access to the community (including support from me).

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