What French pop song did my college instructor use?

30 years ago when I was taking introductory French in college, I had an instructor who was actually from France. I recall at one point he was teaching us a particular tense and he gave us the lyrics to a pop song which used that tense in almost every line.

I’m trying to recall what that song was. It was a male singer, and my instructor described him as a kind of serious singer-songwriter type (maybe like Francis Cabrel or someone like that?).

The song was something about watching sailboats at the shore or something like that. I think the grammatical tense we were learning was l’imparfait?

Any clue what song this might have been?

Maybe this one?

Sung by a woman, but it’s about sailing and has the line “Look at the ocean!”

In Europe, this song gets a lot of airplay on Retro stations.

Every line of the verse uses a verb in the same tense (which might have been l’imparfait). That’s why my instructor used the song.

It was like if an English song used the same grammatical form in every line, like …

Yesterday I went sailing
And my arms they were flailing
But today I am ailing
Because I tripped on the railing

… the lyrics are in that pattern, only in French and using the same French verb tense in each line

And the singer was definitely a man

Michel Rivard - Je voudrais voir la mer?

and revisited thirty years later:


Maybe this one? It would have been Retro even 30 years ago:

(Scroll down and click in the lower left-hand corner.)

The melody is the same as this classic American hit:


I’m very familiar with Charles Trenet’s “La Mer.” It’s definitely not it. It’s too old and also doesn’t follow the grammatical pattern.

Not sailing but plenty of imperfects:


That’s not it but that clip did inspire me to make an Yves Montand playlist on Spotify

Francis Cabrel’s C’était l’Hiver uses l’imparfait extensively but no trace of sailboats.

Jean-Louis Aubert’s Les Plages is about beaches and sailboats but no imparfait that I recall.

Nope. But that Cabrel one is another add to my playlists.

On s’envolera du même quai?

Not really sailboats, but one of the top two songs most used to teach French:

(Of course the second one is sorta a cheat because it allows students to say "fuck" in the presence of teachers with impunity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWKpzJrli9c)

[quote=“eunoia, post:11, topic:818328”]

On s’envolera du même quai?

Not really sailboats, but one of the top two songs most used to teach French:


We’re definitely getting closer. This song has the kind of rhyme pattern I recall. But the song I’m remembering wasn’t a love song, and there was definitely something about sails and the sea.

But, hey, we found another song I like, so that didn’t go to waste.

Funny, I had to find a different link to that song because the one you gave was not authorized for access in the United States.

Anyway, it’s great to discover new stuff. On with the hunt for sails!

Here are three songs that are about boats, which would have been well-known 30 years ago. They don’t use the imparfait much, though. Are you sure it was that tense ?

Renaud - Dès que le Vent Soufflera
Hughes Aufray - Santiano
Or this children’s song : Il Était un Petit Navire

One that seems to turn up if you look for songs used to teach the imperfect is the Chanson du Petit Voilier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqaiIjULu9I