Quand je suis arrivé(e) à la gare, le train était parti.
When I arrived at the train station, the train had left.
Regardons l'exemple pour parler de la leçon d'aujourd'hui.
Looks like you should have arrived at the train station earlier...
Pourquoi tu dis ça ?
Because the train left before you arrived.
Excellent !
Ah oui... ?!?
Quand je suis arrivé(e) à la gare, le train était parti.
When I arrived at the train station, the train had left.
In this example, the chronology can seem a bit off:
  1. First, the train left (expressed in green at the end of the sentence).
  2. Second, tutor arrived at the train station (expressed in yellow at the beginning of the sentence).
Le train est parti et je suis arrivé(e) à la gare.
The train left and I arrived at the train station.
In this example, the chronology seems more natural:
  1. First, the train left (expressed in yellow at the beginning of the sentence).
  2. Second, tutor arrived at the train station (also in yellow and expressed at the end of the sentence).
Qu'est-ce que tu veux dire ici ? Both sentences mean the same!
Oui, you are correct ! But didn't you notice the tenses used to express both?
Euh...
I didn't use the same tenses! Look at the green sentence.
Oh...!
Le train était parti.
The train had left.
This tense is called le plus-que-parfait. It is formed with two parts:
  1. The auxiliaries avoir or être conjugated in the imparfait.
  2. The past participles of the verb.
For the grammar lovers
Le plus-que-parfait, just like le passé composé, is called a compound tense in French because it is formed with two parts!
And if you forgot how to conjugate avoir or être in the imparfait, check out this table:
Avoir
Être
j'avais
j'étais
tu avais
tu étais
il avait
il était
nous avions
nous étions
vous aviez
vous étiez
ils avaient
ils étaient
Tu avais déjà acheté du pain (event 1) quand j'ai appelé (event 2).
You had already bought bread when I called.
Elle a apporté des légumes (event 2) mais nous avions déjà fini de faire la cuisine (event 1).
She brought veggies but we had already finished cooking.
Je n'avais pas reçu ton message (event 1) quand je suis parti(e) (event 2).
I had not received your message when I left.
Donc, je dois utiliser le plus-que-parfait... when I want to talk about an event that happened before another event?
Oui, but only when talking in the past, and if you make sure the event in the plus-que-parfait is the one that happened before.
Oh là là, j'ai besoin de pratiquer... et d'une aspirine !
Pas de panique, you'll get there with time! La bonne nouvelle est que, normalement, tu n'utiliseras pas ce temps très souvent.
I already feel better!