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Agreeing past participle with subject's gender and number with (+ être) verbs in Le Passé Composé

You've seen that in compound tenses, such as Le Passé Composé, the majority of verbs use avoir as auxiliary. See for example Conjugate regular -er verbs (+ avoir) in Le Passé Composé (conversational past). For those verbs, the past participle remains unchanged.

However, it is different when it comes to verbs using être as the auxiliary in Le Passé Composé, such as the Conjugate coming and going verbs (+ être) in Le Passé Composé (conversational past)Conjugate mourir, naître, décéder, devenir, rester (+ être) in Le Passé Composé (conversational past) and Conjugate reflexive verbs (+être) in Le Passé Composé (conversational past).

Look at these verbs using être as auxiliary in Le Passé Composé:

Anthony est devenu boulanger.
Anthony became a baker.

Elle est retournée à la maison.
She went back home.

Les garçons sont revenus !
The boys are back!

Elles sont sorties hier.
They went out yesterday.

Alice s'est maquillée.
Alice put her make-up on.

Jules et Pierre se sont bien amusés le weekend dernier.
Jules and Pierre had fun last weekend.

Isaac, tu t'es bien reposé ?
Isaac, did you rest well?

Note that when être is used as the auxiliary in compound tenses such as Le Passé Composé, the past participle must always agree in gender and number with the subject of the verb.

The endings follow this pattern:

  Masculine Feminine
Singular --- -e
Plural -s
-es

Note that when the group includes men AND women, you will always use the masculine-plural ending -s.

Here are some examples:

Gérard a dit: "Je suis allé en France l'année dernière."
Gérard said: "I went to France last year."

Pauline a dit: "Je suis allée en France l'année dernière."
Pauline said: "I went to France last year."

Marco et Paulo ont dit: "Nous sommes allés en France l'année dernière."
Marco and Paulo said: "We went to France last year."

Julia et Émilie ont dit: "Nous sommes allées en France l'année dernière."
Julia and Emilie said: "We went to France last year."

James et Lucy ont dit: "Nous sommes allés en France l'année dernière."
James and Lucy said: "We went to France last year."

 

ATTENTION: Case of agreement with vous

As you know, the French vous can be used to refer either to more than one person (plural you), or in a polite way to a single person (formal you). 

In le Passé Composé of (+ être) verbs, the agreement will depend on which vous is being used:

- with the plural vous, the past participle will take -s or -es depending on the gender of the people in the group it refers to:

Louis et toi, Francis, vous êtes rencontrés il y a trois ans.
Louis and you, Francis, met three years ago.

Isabelle et toi, Marie, êtes parties en même temps.
Isabelle and you, Marie, left at the same time.

Mes sœurs et toi, Charles, êtes restés un peu plus longtemps.
My sisters and you, Charles, stayed a bit longer.

- with the formal/singular vous, the past participle will remain unchanged or take an -e depending on the gender of the person it refers to:

Monsieur Dupont, vous vous êtes trompé.
Mister Dupont, you were mistaken.

Mademoiselle Rose, vous êtes devenue une charmante jeune fille.
Miss Rose, you became a charming young lady.

 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Toutes les filles sont allées à Montpellier.
All the girls went to Montpellier.


Elles sont sorties hier.
They went out yesterday.


Marco et Paulo ont dit: "Nous sommes allés en France l'année dernière."
Marco and Paulo said: "We went to France last year."


Anthony est devenu boulanger.
Anthony became a baker.


Mademoiselle Rose, vous êtes devenue une charmante jeune fille.
Miss Rose, you became a charming young lady.


James et Lucy ont dit: "Nous sommes allés en France l'année dernière."
James and Lucy said: "We went to France last year."


Isaac, tu t'es bien reposé ?
Isaac, did you rest well?


Jules et Pierre se sont bien amusés le weekend dernier.
Jules and Pierre had fun last weekend.



Mes sœurs et toi, Charles, êtes restés un peu plus longtemps.
My sisters and you, Charles, stayed a bit longer.


Gérard a dit: "Je suis allé en France l'année dernière."
Gérard said: "I went to France last year."


Elle est retournée à la maison.
She went back home.


Monsieur Dupont, vous vous êtes trompé.
Mister Dupont, you were mistaken.



Isabelle et toi, Marie, êtes parties en même temps.
Isabelle and you, Marie, left at the same time.


Julia et Émilie ont dit: "Nous sommes allées en France l'année dernière."
Julia and Emilie said: "We went to France last year."


Alice s'est maquillée.
Alice put her make-up on.


Les garçons sont revenus !
The boys are back!


Tammy, pourquoi es-tu revenue ?
Tammy, why did you come back?


Pauline a dit: "Je suis allée en France l'année dernière."
Pauline said: "I went to France last year."


Louis et toi, Francis, vous êtes rencontrés il y a trois ans.
Louis and you, Francis, met three years ago.


Q&A

Bill

Kwiziq community member

6 July 2018

3 replies

nous nous sommes brossé

I'm confused this is a reflexive verb, so uses etre, and with a plural subject.  So why is it not "nous nous sommes brosséS"?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 July 2018

6/07/18

Hi Bill, I believe there's been a useful and detailed discussion already on this subject. You should be able to find it. 


-- Chris. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

7 July 2018

7/07/18

Hi Bill,


If you scroll right down in that lesson, you will find answers to this question.


Bonne continuation!

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

9 July 2018

9/07/18

Bonjour Bill,


There is agreement with reflexive verbs only when the reflexive pronoun is the direct object.


Nous nous sommes lavés. - We washed up. The reflexive pronoun nous is the direct object: we washed ourselves -  the people doing the washing and being washed are the same.


But in nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux, the reflexive pronoun is actually the indirect object, because the direct object is les cheveux. While not grammatical, you can get a better sense of this by rewording the sentence: Nous sommes brossé les cheveux à nous. Since the direct object does not precede the verb, there is no agreement.


As this is a very tricky grammar point, Aurélie is going to address it in detail, either in this lesson or a separate one, but in the meantime you might find section 3 of this lesson helpful: Agreement with pronominal verbs

Rob

Kwiziq community member

16 June 2018

1 reply

Brossé not brossés

CAN YOU PLEASE PLEASE ANSWER THE QUESTION, asked a number of times already, why the masc plural is brossé rather than brossés?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

18 June 2018

18/06/18

Hi Rob,


If you look at the bottom of the lesson, there is a long explanation in answer to the same question posted by Gabrielle on the 28 April.


Let me know if you still don't get it ....


 

Jan

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2018

1 reply

Thank you for a great website! I am wondering why there has been no answer for why the response on the test was shown as "Nous nous sommmes brosse" ?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

18 May 2018

18/05/18

Hi Jan - if you read the discussion below you'll see this comes up a lot...

Gabrielle

Kwiziq community member

28 April 2018

5 replies

Hi, I love the website. I too am wondering why 'we brushed our hair' is 'Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux' rather than with an 's' added to brossé

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 April 2018

30/04/18

Hi Gabrielle,


The agreement of past participles in the case of reflexive verbs is most interesting.


As they use the auxilliary verb 'être' in the perfect tense, they normally agree just as adjectives in gender and number.


This is always true of simple intransitive verbs like se coucher, s'appelerse réveiller, s'arrêter, which don't have an object.


In the case of verbs like 'se casser.... quelque chose', 'se brosser...quelque chose', 'se laver ...quelque chose' etc. which in English translate literally and oddly to break /brush/wash (yourself ) something which clearly have an object  then we apply the agreement rules of verbs using 'avoir' in the perfect tense, and the past participle will agree only if the object precedes the verb.


Here are a few examples which might help to illustrate the point:


Ils se sont lavé les mains,( They washed their hands) but ils se sont lavés à l'eau froide (They washed  in cold water).


Elle s'est cassé une jambe (She broke a leg) but La jambe qu'elle s'est cassée aura du mal à guérir (The leg she broke will not heal well).


Elles se sont préparé une soupe (They have made (themselves) a soup) but la soupe qu'elles se sont préparée est délicieuse (The soup they made is delicious).


Nous nous sommes acheté une maison (We bought ourselves a house) but La maison que nous nous sommes achetée n'a pas de dépendances (The house we bought has no outbuildings)


Hope this helps!

Gabrielle

Kwiziq community member

30 April 2018

30/04/18

Cécile, that is an enormous help. The examples you gave are really clear. Thank you very much. G

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 April 2018

30/04/18

Alan

Kwiziq community member

30 April 2018

30/04/18

Cécile - could you explain this example more, I don't see the difference. Don't both cases have an object which doesn't precede the verb?


Ils se sont lavé les mains,( They washed their hands) but ils se sont lavés les mains à l'eau froide (They washed their hands in cold water).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

1 May 2018

1/05/18

Hi Alan,


Thanks for pointing this out, it is in fact a mistake . The examples should read: 


Ils se sont lavé les mains.


But


Ils se sont lavés à l'eau froide .


Will correct the text above.


 


 

Paul

Kwiziq community member

24 April 2018

5 replies

Can you please give more explanation and examples of how the reflexive participle agrees in number and gender?

For example: Nous nous sommes brosse(s) les dents/les cheveux

Chris

Kwiziq community member

25 April 2018

25/04/18

Hi Paul,


You will find an excellent explanation of all possible cases along with examples here:


https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/agreement-with-pronominal-verbs/


Greetings, -- Chris.

Paul

Kwiziq community member

25 April 2018

25/04/18

I suggest that Kwiziq leave out tests on this topic at this stage of the course. 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

26/04/18

Why?


-- Chris


P.S.: See my reply to your later post.

Jan

Kwiziq community member

20 May 2018

20/05/18

Cecile and Chris, Your posts on this topic were excellent. Thank you so much. 


In addition, I want to say that I agree with the person below who said this type of sentence (with reflexive verbs where the past participle does not agree with the subject) should be left out of lessons at earlier levels, for instance Lower Intermediate, which is my level. Why? Because we already have a heavy load of things to remember and understand. The brain only holds so much new information at one time. Leave it until later. As a career teacher, I believe there is a principle of providing an appropriate level of difficulty for each student's current achievement level.


Then again, if it is thought appropriate to include it, PUT IT IN THE LESSON. Don't just throw it in during a test when we have never seen it before.


And last, if you are going to toss it into a test, at least let us know right away, that yes, the test answer given is correct. It's not so much that I needed an explanation right now. I needed someone to say, Yes, the answer we gave is correct. No, it is not an error. 


But, thank you for the clear answer you two gave.

Rob

Kwiziq community member

16 June 2018

16/06/18

Bravo Jan! 

Pekka

Kwiziq community member

24 April 2018

1 reply

Hi. The perfect tense rather than the past tense?

Hi.' Mademoiselle Rose, vous êtes devenue une charmante jeune fille' translates as: M. Rose, you became a charming young lady.  Wouldn't the perfect tense: you have become ' be better here if this is a direct comment to Miss Rose? 

Pekka Järvilehto. 

Helsinki

Chris

Kwiziq community member

25 April 2018

25/04/18

Hi Pekka,


As you know, the French sentence is in the perfect tense (vous êtes devenue). And I agree with you that for the English translation the perfect tense (you have become) would be more natural.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

John

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

11 replies

We brushed our hair is given as 'Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux'. As 'nous' implies that more than one person is involved, why not 'brossés'?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Hi John,
This question has been asked before, and it seems that it is not yet covered on this site, but it is explained here:
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/agreement-with-pronominal-verbs/

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi John,


You are correct, it ought to be, "Nous nous sommes brossés les cheveux." Or, if it is a purely female group, "Nous nous sommes brossées les cheveux."


The site Alan quotes in his reply is a good one to check.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi Chris,


No, actually it should be "Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux", because there is a direct object "les cheveux" which comes after the verb. This is explained on the link given - case 3 1/2


There's also some discussion of this in the other Q&As for this topic.




Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

I meant case 3. Case 3 1/2 is the exception to case 3.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Actually, no. In the case of être, the participe always agrees.


-- Chris.

John

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Thanks to both Alan and Chris. I remember this now from previous delving into French grammar. However, I would question whether this should be at A2 level. It's more appropriate at B2/C1

Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Chris, please read the other Q&A on this topic or the link I provided, it's more complicated than that.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi Alan, that's a VERY interesting point, indeed. According to the site, there should not be an agreement of the participle. However, I asked two native French speakers, one of them a French (as a second language) teacher, and both said that the participle needs to match the subject in the example we are discussing


I did some more internet research and found confirmation the rule you found on Laura's site. So it seems I did learn something new today! Thanks!!


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Elle s'est cassé la jambe. -- She broke her legs (no agreement).
Quelle jambe s'est-elle cassée? -- Which leg did she break? (agreement)


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Hi all,


This is the kind of grammar which will trip up a lot of French natives and the rules are odd to say the least .


Please look at my answer to Gabrielle :


https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/questions/view/hi-i-love-the-website-i-too-am-wondering-why-we-brushed-our-hair-is-nous-nous-sommes-brosse-les-chev


which might help out....

Krissa

Kwiziq community member

26 June 2018

26/06/18

Hi John


thanks for the link above relating to  the Laless site. It makes sense now. Krissa

PRYIA

Kwiziq community member

23 November 2017

3 replies

this is driving me insane

Ron

Kwiziq community member

24 November 2017

24/11/17

Bonsoir Pryia,
Would you please clarify your post as I don't see a question posed here?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

25 November 2017

25/11/17

Bonsoir Pryia,
Since you have not replied to my request for clarification on your question, I can only guess at what you are having difficulty with. So here goes:
Firstly, if you are reading this in the Q&A section, you will need to go to the lesson referenced in your statement, then if you scroll down this list of questions on the lesson, you should find a couple of links provided by Gruff in response to Brian's similar concern.
Having said that, I am going to provide you with a couple of other «outside» links that also cover agreeing the past participle with the subject's gender and number when using être as the auxiliary verb in le passé composé.
http://laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/tap3.html
https://www.francaisfacile.com/exercices/exercice-francais-2/exercice-francais-9508.php
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJCJCfKR0gA
Further, I typically do not like to use resources outside of Kwiziq but sometimes it becomes necessary to get a broader perspective on the topic.
I hope that my response is the issue you are having difficulty with and helps to clarify it for you.
Bonne chance et bonne continuation.

Ron ( un locuteur non natif)

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 March 2018

23/03/18

Hi Pryia,


The rules of agreement in French can often seem infuriating as very complicated.


It might put your mind at ease to realise that often these rules only make a difference in the written language and not in spoken French as a lot of the past participles will be pronounced in the same way, e.g. allé, allée, allées ...


Hope this helps!

Brian

Kwiziq community member

21 July 2017

6 replies

should the past participle agree in this sentence, "Elle s'est lavé les mains" ?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

22 July 2017

22/07/17

Brian

Kwiziq community member

22 July 2017

22/07/17

I am aware of the rules for agreement of past participles with verbs conjugated with être. Because "les mains" is a direct object, I think a different rule applies. I am very confused by this rule, but cannot find an explanation in Kwiziq. Could I please get a second opinion on this?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Hi Brian,

Ah, I think the lesson for special case(s) for direct objects that you might be thinking about is this:
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/special-cases-when-the-past-participle-agrees-in-number-and-gender-when-used-with-avoir-in-le-passe-compose-conversational-past

Note that these special cases concern when you need to agree the past participle when 'avoir' is the auxiliary. The participle must always agree when 'être' is the auxiliary.

Hope that helps!

Brian

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Thanks for that Gruff, but it may not be correct. I have managed to find this which you should read,
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/agreement-with-pronominal-verbs/
You will note that Laura uses the following example: Elles se sont lavé les cheveux. Note that there is no agreement unless (like with avoir) the direct object precedes the auxilliary verb. The direct object is les cheveux, se becomes the indirect object.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Brian - I apologise I didn't know this! Laura is of course, right.

Elles se sont lavées. (Qui est lavé ? "Elles", écrit avant, accord)
Elles se sont lavé les cheveux. (Ce qui est lavé ? "les cheveux", écrit après, pas d'accord.)
Les cheveux qu'elles se sont lavés (Ce qui est lavé ? "les cheveux", écrit avant, accord.)

I'm not sure I entirely follow the logic of this, but it apparently the case!

Aurelie is away currently, but I'll make sure she takes a look too and we can have a Kwiziq lesson to deal with these cases (and there appear to be even more arcane rules on top from what I've read since.)

Thanks for pointing this out!

Cordialement, Gruff

Brian

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Thank you, a lesson on this very confusing subject would be welcome.

Lynn

Kwiziq community member

10 July 2017

1 reply

Does the phrase "il est mort" mean "he is dead" as well as "he died"?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 July 2017

14/07/17

Bonjour Lynn !

Yes, and here's why:

- Il est mort = he died 
Here it's Le Passé Composé of mourir, which is one of verbs that take être as an auxiliary.

- Il est mort = he is dead
Here it's simply Le Présent of être (to be) + the adjective (derived from the past participle of mourir) mort.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !
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