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

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


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


Pauline a dit: "Je suis allée en France l'année dernière."
Pauline said: "I 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?


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


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


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


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.


Q&A

Bibian

Kwiziq community member

10 November 2018

1 reply

I just read the lesson after posting my question about including un before boulanger.

It still feels so naked without the un. In direct translation to English it would mean "Anthony is become baker" to mean Anthony became (a) baker

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 November 2018

13/11/18

answered ...

Bibian

Kwiziq community member

10 November 2018

2 replies

Anthony est devenu boulanger. Would I be wrong to say Anthony est devenu un boulanger?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 November 2018

13/11/18

Hi Bibian,

No, you won't use the article in French with jobs as explained in the following lesson:

https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/dont-use-indefinite-articles-with-professions

unless you add an adjective', 

Anthony est un excellent boulanger .

Hope this helps!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 November 2018

13/11/18

answered ...

Walker

Kwiziq community member

29 September 2018

4 replies

"Jules et Pierre se sont bien amusés le weekend dernier."

What is the purpose of the 'bien' in this sentence?

Wouldn't the meaning be exactly the same if it was omitted?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

They had great fun last weekend.

Would the meaning be the same without "great"?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Hi Walker,

The addition of 'bien' intensifies the fun element , the difference between a good time and a great time.

Hope this helps!

Walker

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Chris: Sorry, I should have quoted the English translation from the page.  It does not utilise the word 'great'.  It just says they 'had fun' which (to have fun) is the base meaning of s'amuser (no bien required).

However, I do understand after reading Cécile's explanation that this is about intensifying the 'fun' element of the meaning, much like the bien in "j'aime bien...," when referring to objects (not people) I suppose.

Many thanks to you both!

Walker

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

"Much like the bien in 'j'aime bien' emphasises how much you like an object," I meant to say. 

Karen

Kwiziq community member

25 September 2018

1 reply

Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux?

I would have expected the correct answer to be 'Nous nous sommes brosses les cheveux' (I can't get the accent to work.) Why is there no 's' on brosse?

Karen

Kwiziq community member

25 September 2018

25/09/18

I just saw that this one has been covered previously.

Martin

Kwiziq community member

13 August 2018

2 replies

Bon Jour !! I saw this sentence in your examples: Alice s'est maquillée. (Alice put her make-up on.) I don' t see the verb mettre (to put) ??

Chris

Kwiziq community member

14 August 2018

14/08/18

Hi Martin,

There is no "mettre" in this sentence because the verb " se maquiller" already means "to put one's make-up on". You can't say "I made myself up" in English. (Well, you could, but it would mean something completely different).

-- Chris.

Martin

Kwiziq community member

14 August 2018

14/08/18

Merci !!

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! 
Let me take a look at that...