agreement of reflexive verbs

LeahC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

agreement of reflexive verbs

Can anyone refer me to the lesson as to why "je me suis brossé les dents"   brossé has no extra e and the speaker is a woman. Has to do with "les dents" being the direct object, I think, but would love to read the lesson.

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Leah,

This my answer to Gabrielle a while ago on the same question -

"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'appeler, se 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!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I don't think there is a specific lesson on this particular case.

The tricky part is noticing that les dents is the immediate object of the actions and not me, which is kind of an indirect object. Hence there is no match: Je me suis brossé les dents. -- I brushed my teeth. But: Les dents que je me suis brossés. Les dents precedes the participle which, therefore, is matched to les dents.

Here is an example making the distinction clear:

Ils se sont lavés. -- They washed themselves. The participle is matched to ils.

Ils se sont lavé les mains. -- They washed their hands. Here there is no match since the immediate direct object (les mains) follows the participle.

You can look here, for example: https://www.mytutor.co.uk/answers/1647/A-Level/French/Passe-compose-how-does-the-agreement-of-the-past-participle-work/

ValerieB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Happy I'm not the only one not grasping this!

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Valerie,

The rules of agreement of past participles in the case of reflexive verbs are very complex, and if it any consolation, French people get them wrong too!

Bonne Continuation!

agreement of reflexive verbs

Can anyone refer me to the lesson as to why "je me suis brossé les dents"   brossé has no extra e and the speaker is a woman. Has to do with "les dents" being the direct object, I think, but would love to read the lesson.

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