I took a quiz that asked this question:
Les garçons ? Oui, elle les a ________ . The boys? Yes, she punished them.HINT: punir = to punish
Here, 'puni' is the past participle of the verb 'punir'.
Elle les a punis = She has punished them
because the object of 'punir', which is les and it replaces les garçons and it is placed before the verb, 'puni' agrees with the object and becomes masculine plural.
But if it was -
She punished the boys = Elle a puni les garçons
there would be no agreement of past participle with the object, that is the point of the lesson.
Hope this helps!
The verb is not replacing a direct object, this would make no sense. The verb «punir» is preceded in the sentence by its direct object pronoun «les» (plural/masculine in this case). Hence the exception requiring agreement of the past participle in passé composé with the auxiliary avoir applies. If «les» represented 'les filles' instead of 'les garçons', it would be «a punies». This is the point of the lesson.
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