Past Participle Agreement
There are two basic rules, each one with a nuance:
1. In the case of the verbs
the past participle will agree in number and gender with the subject:
Some être verbs can be used with direct objects, in which
case they are conjugated with avoir (see Compound
tenses). When conjugated with avoir, these verbs will conform
to the agreement rule for avoir verbs (below).
Elle est partie en vacances. She has left on vacation.
Il sont restés chez eux. They stayed home.
2. In the case of the verbs conjugated with
the past participle never agrees with the subject. It will, however, agree
with any preceding direct
When avoir verbs are used reflexively
or reciprocally (that is, with a reflexive
pronoun), they will be conjugated with être (see
Nevertheless, they will still only agree with a preceding direct object.
Care must be taken to identify whether the reflexive pronoun is a direct
or an indirect
object pronoun. So,
Muriel a acheté une revue. Muriel bought a
Amine a vendu sa voiture. Amine sold his car.
Est-ce que Jean a trouvé ses livres? Did Jean
find his books?
Quelle revue Muriel a-t-elle achetée? Which
magazine did Muriel buy?
Voilà la voiture qu'Amine a vendue. Here is
the car that Amine sold.
Oui, Jean les a trouvés. Yes, Jean found them.
Les enfants se sont regardés dans la glace. The
children looked at themselves in the mirror.
[Regarder takes a direct object; therefore the participle
agrees with se.]
Elles se sont parlé They spoke to one another.
[Parler takes an indirect object; therefore there is no agreement
Elle s'est coupée. She cut herself.
[Couper takes a direct object; therefore the participle agrees
In certain expressions, such as faire
laisser +infinitive, se rendre compte, and
others, the place of the direct object is held by an infinitive or other
complement, which will always follow the principal verb. In these expressions
no agreement is usually made.
Elle s'est coupé la main. She cut her hand.
[La main is the direct object (se here becomes an
indirect object pronoun indicating whose hand was cut). Since la main
does not precede the participle, there is no agreement.]
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