Special cases when the past participle agrees (in number & gender) when used with 'avoir' in Le Passé Composé

In most cases, the past participle when used with avoir as an auxiliary never changes:

Nous avons mangé. / Ils ont fini.
We ate. / They finished.

BUT

when the direct object of the verb is placed before the verb, the past participle has to agree with this object.

Here are the main cases in which the direct object ends up before the verb. 

CASE of direct object pronouns

When you replace the direct object by a direct object pronoun (le/la/l'/les), it moves before the verb. That's when the past participle has to agree.
J'ai regardé la fille.I watched the girl.

-> The direct object la fille of the verb ai regardé is placed after the verb, therefore there's no agreement.

Je l'ai regardée.I watched her.

-> Here the direct object pronoun l' (which replaces la fille -feminine/singular) is placed before the verb ai regardé, therefore there is agreement

Here are more examples:

- Et la télé ? -  Il l'a regardée.- What about TV?  - He watched it.

- Et les bonbons ?  - Elle les a mangés.- What about the sweets?  - She ate them.

Et les pompiers, tu les as vus ?And the firemen, have you seen them?

Ces statues... Tu les as faites toi-même ?These statues... Did you make them yourself?

ATTENTION: 

This rule doesn't apply to indirect object pronouns. For those, there is never any agreement.
See the following examples:

- Tu as parlé à Laura ? - Non, je ne lui ai pas parlé.- Have you spoken to Laura? - No, I haven't spoken to her.

- Est-ce qu'elle a téléphoné à ses parents ? - Oui, elle leur a téléphoné hier.- Did she call her parents? - Yes, she called them yesterday.
 

 

CASE of subordinate clauses with que

 

When you give extra details about a noun by including que... (that...), the noun is the object of the second clause, since que is before the verb, the past participle has to agree with this object.
J'ai senti les fleurs.I smelled the flowers.

-> The direct object les fleurs of the verb ai senti is placed after the verb, therefore there's no agreement.

Les fleurs que j'ai senties étaient belles.The flowers that I smelled were beautiful.

-> Here the relative pronoun que (which repeats les fleurs [feminine/plural] in the subordinate clause) is placed before the verb ai senti, therefore there is agreement.

Here are more examples:

J'aime les fraises que Maman a cueillies.I love the strawberries Mum picked.

J'ai rencontré les actrices que j'ai appréciées.I met the actresses whom I have appreciated.

Les matchs que Marseille a perdus étaient truqués.The games (that) Marseille lost were fixed.

Les photos que tu as prises sont toutes floues.The pictures that you took are all blurry.

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Examples and resources

J'ai senti les fleurs.I smelled the flowers.
Je l'ai regardée.I watched her.
Les photos que tu as prises sont toutes floues.The pictures that you took are all blurry.
J'ai regardé la fille.I watched the girl.
Les matchs que Marseille a perdus étaient truqués.The games (that) Marseille lost were fixed.
Et les pompiers, tu les as vus ?And the firemen, have you seen them?
- Est-ce qu'elle a téléphoné à ses parents ? - Oui, elle leur a téléphoné hier.- Did she call her parents? - Yes, she called them yesterday.
Les fleurs que j'ai senties étaient belles.The flowers that I smelled were beautiful.
- Tu as parlé à Laura ? - Non, je ne lui ai pas parlé.- Have you spoken to Laura? - No, I haven't spoken to her.
Ces statues... Tu les as faites toi-même ?These statues... Did you make them yourself?

case of the object pronoun


- Et la télé ? -  Il l'a regardée.- What about TV?  - He watched it.
- Et les bonbons ?  - Elle les a mangés.- What about the sweets?  - She ate them.

case of the subordinate clause with 'que'


J'aime les fraises que Maman a cueillies.I love the strawberries Mum picked.
J'ai rencontré les actrices que j'ai appréciées.I met the actresses whom I have appreciated.
I'll be right with you...