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Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

Hi, I hope someone is going to tell me the answer to this:

If you're giving a fairly formal talk to a group of people, and you want to kick off by relating a sequence of events, would you do it in the perfect or the past historic? I'm hoping the perfect would be acceptable, I'd find past historics hard as I never use them.
I'm starting to think I've bitten off more than I can chew :(
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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

I think that it is ok to use the passé composé in an oral presentation, even though the simple past would be perfect ...

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
- Bertrand Russell
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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

Norman,

You can be just tooo clever at times!

I thought the past historic was only used for writing, not talking, otherwise perfect or imperfect depending on meaning for past tenses ....

Judith
ex W1, via 47 and 11 and now [just] in 34, equidistant from Carcassonne, Narbonne and Béziers, where I hope we'll finally stay!!

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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

NormanH: I would go further than that and say that the passé composé would be not just acceptable, but normal.  I think the "past historic" is really quite unusual in French speech (unless, of course, the speaker is reading from a text).

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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

I agree with you all that the passé composé is usual in oral use, and perfectly acceptable in the circumstances.
However, the OP said "fairly formal talk to a group of people, and you want to kick off by relating a sequence of events,"
and the tense used for formal narration is the passé simple..

That's why I think it could be used in this  particular case.

It also gives the sense that things have definitively finished. There  used to be rule that if it happened over 24 hours ago it was told in the passé simple.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
- Bertrand Russell
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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

Thanks for that, it's a great relief as I had started writing it out in the passé composé, and then yesterday I happened to notice that something I was listening to on the radio was all in the past historic (it was someone summarising a singer's biography). Which put me into a panic.

allanb, I probably will be reading it all out from my notes but I'll be trying to look as if I'm not ...

Edit - sorry, crossed with N's last post
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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

Yes you do hear it on the radio or TV when a biography or an account of an historical event is narrated. In a way that doesn't count as everyday speech.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
- Bertrand Russell
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Re: Tense? (and a bit stressed too!)

Not wishing to throw a spanner in the works here, but I notice that when guides are taking you round a historic building, they talk about the history in the present - or even the future - tense!  "Louis XIV va dire a sa femme...."   Confused [8-)]

Angela


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