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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

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.


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.


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



Mes sœurs et toi, Charles, êtes restés un peu plus longtemps.
My sisters and you, Charles, stayed a bit longer.


Elle est retournée à la maison.
She went back home.


Monsieur Dupont, vous vous êtes trompé.
Mister Dupont, you were mistaken.


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



Isabelle et toi, Marie, êtes parties en même temps.
Isabelle and you, Marie, left at the same time.


Alice s'est maquillée.
Alice put her make-up on.


Les garçons sont revenus !
The boys are back!


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


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.


Pauline a dit: "Je suis allée en France l'année dernière."
Pauline said: "I went to France last year."


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


Elles sont sorties hier.
They went out yesterday.


Micro kwiz: Agreeing past participle with subject's gender and number with (+ être) verbs in Le Passé Composé
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Q&A

John

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

9 replies

We brushed our hair is given as 'Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux'. As 'nous' implies that more than one person is involved, why not 'brossés'?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Hi John,
This question has been asked before, and it seems that it is not yet covered on this site, but it is explained here:
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/agreement-with-pronominal-verbs/

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi John,


You are correct, it ought to be, "Nous nous sommes brossés les cheveux." Or, if it is a purely female group, "Nous nous sommes brossées les cheveux."


The site Alan quotes in his reply is a good one to check.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi Chris,


No, actually it should be "Nous nous sommes brossé les cheveux", because there is a direct object "les cheveux" which comes after the verb. This is explained on the link given - case 3 1/2


There's also some discussion of this in the other Q&As for this topic.




Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

I meant case 3. Case 3 1/2 is the exception to case 3.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Actually, no. In the case of être, the participe always agrees.


-- Chris.

John

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Thanks to both Alan and Chris. I remember this now from previous delving into French grammar. However, I would question whether this should be at A2 level. It's more appropriate at B2/C1

Alan

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Chris, please read the other Q&A on this topic or the link I provided, it's more complicated than that.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Hi Alan, that's a VERY interesting point, indeed. According to the site, there should not be an agreement of the participle. However, I asked two native French speakers, one of them a French (as a second language) teacher, and both said that the participle needs to match the subject in the example we are discussing


I did some more internet research and found confirmation the rule you found on Laura's site. So it seems I did learn something new today! Thanks!!


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Elle s'est cassé la jambe. -- She broke her legs (no agreement).
Quelle jambe s'est-elle cassée? -- Which leg did she break? (agreement)


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

PRYIA

Kwiziq community member

23 November 2017

3 replies

this is driving me insane

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 March 2018

23/03/18

Hi Pryia,


The rules of agreement in French can often seem infuriating as very complicated.


It might put your mind at ease to realise that often these rules only make a difference in the written language and not in spoken French as a lot of the past participles will be pronounced in the same way, e.g. allé, allée, allées ...


Hope this helps!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

24 November 2017

24/11/17

Bonsoir Pryia,
Would you please clarify your post as I don't see a question posed here?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

25 November 2017

25/11/17

Bonsoir Pryia,
Since you have not replied to my request for clarification on your question, I can only guess at what you are having difficulty with. So here goes:
Firstly, if you are reading this in the Q&A section, you will need to go to the lesson referenced in your statement, then if you scroll down this list of questions on the lesson, you should find a couple of links provided by Gruff in response to Brian's similar concern.
Having said that, I am going to provide you with a couple of other «outside» links that also cover agreeing the past participle with the subject's gender and number when using être as the auxiliary verb in le passé composé.
http://laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/tap3.html
https://www.francaisfacile.com/exercices/exercice-francais-2/exercice-francais-9508.php
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJCJCfKR0gA
Further, I typically do not like to use resources outside of Kwiziq but sometimes it becomes necessary to get a broader perspective on the topic.
I hope that my response is the issue you are having difficulty with and helps to clarify it for you.
Bonne chance et bonne continuation.

Ron ( un locuteur non natif)

Brian

Kwiziq community member

21 July 2017

6 replies

should the past participle agree in this sentence, "Elle s'est lavé les mains" ?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

22 July 2017

22/07/17

Brian

Kwiziq community member

22 July 2017

22/07/17

I am aware of the rules for agreement of past participles with verbs conjugated with être. Because "les mains" is a direct object, I think a different rule applies. I am very confused by this rule, but cannot find an explanation in Kwiziq. Could I please get a second opinion on this?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Hi Brian,

Ah, I think the lesson for special case(s) for direct objects that you might be thinking about is this:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/special-cases-when-the-past-participle-agrees-in-number-and-gender-when-used-with-avoir-in-le-passe-compose-conversational-past

Note that these special cases concern when you need to agree the past participle when 'avoir' is the auxiliary. The participle must always agree when 'être' is the auxiliary.

Hope that helps!

Brian

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Thanks for that Gruff, but it may not be correct. I have managed to find this which you should read,
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/agreement-with-pronominal-verbs/
You will note that Laura uses the following example: Elles se sont lavé les cheveux. Note that there is no agreement unless (like with avoir) the direct object precedes the auxilliary verb. The direct object is les cheveux, se becomes the indirect object.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Brian - I apologise I didn't know this! Laura is of course, right.

Elles se sont lavées. (Qui est lavé ? "Elles", écrit avant, accord)
Elles se sont lavé les cheveux. (Ce qui est lavé ? "les cheveux", écrit après, pas d'accord.)
Les cheveux qu'elles se sont lavés (Ce qui est lavé ? "les cheveux", écrit avant, accord.)

I'm not sure I entirely follow the logic of this, but it apparently the case!

Aurelie is away currently, but I'll make sure she takes a look too and we can have a Kwiziq lesson to deal with these cases (and there appear to be even more arcane rules on top from what I've read since.)

Thanks for pointing this out!

Cordialement, Gruff

Brian

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Thank you, a lesson on this very confusing subject would be welcome.

Brian

Kwiziq community member

21 July 2017

2 replies

Should the past particip;e agree in the following sentence?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Bonjour Brian,
Désolé, mais je n'ai pas trouvé votre exemple de ce que tu parle.

Brian

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2017

23/07/17

Désolé, j'ai trompé. Gruff a répondu à ma question, merci.

Lynn

Kwiziq community member

10 July 2017

1 reply

Does the phrase "il est mort" mean "he is dead" as well as "he died"?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 July 2017

14/07/17

Bonjour Lynn !

Yes, and here's why:

- Il est mort = he died 
Here it's Le Passé Composé of mourir, which is one of verbs that take être as an auxiliary.

- Il est mort = he is dead
Here it's simply Le Présent of être (to be) + the adjective (derived from the past participle of mourir) mort.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Arash

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2017

2 replies

Quelles bonnes résolutions as-tu prises cette année?

Quelles bonnes résolutions as-tu prises cette année? Does in this question the verb agrees with object?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 April 2017

28/04/17

Bonjour Arash !

Oui absolument !
Indeed the object of the verb here would be "les bonnes résolutions" (what did you take? -resolutions), and this object is placed before the auxiliary "avoir" in the sentence, so "pris" needs to agree with the feminine plural word "résolutions" = "prises".

Bonne journée !

Adrienne

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2017

28/05/17

I thought only être needed to agree, not avoir?

fuad

Kwiziq community member

27 July 2016

2 replies

in your video the verb descendre is misspelled.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

3 August 2016

3/08/16

Bonjour Fuad,

Thanks, but it's not our video. You'd need to contact the person who made it via YouTube.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

8 August 2016

8/08/16

Bonjour Fuad !

Thanks for reporting that mistake, we decided to remove the video and replace it with an accurate one. We even added a rap version to remember the être verbs!

À bientôt !

Jenny

Kwiziq community member

17 February 2016

2 replies

Why do you use j'y suis tombe. Why "j'y and not je

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 February 2016

18/02/16

Bonjour Jenny,

When you say "J'y suis tombé(e)", you're saying "I fell (in) there".
The adverbial pronoun "y" here is used to replace a place that could have been mentioned previously. I agree that out of context, it sounds a bit weird!

If you meant "I fell", you could of course say "Je suis tombé(e)".

In our lesson, we're using the example "J'y suis allé(e)" (I went there). In that case, you couldn't just say "Je suis allé(e)" (I went), as in French the verb "aller" always needs a mentioned location (i.e. to go where?).

I hope that's helpful!

Aurélie

Jenny

Kwiziq community member

18 February 2016

18/02/16

Merci beaucoup pour votre reponse

Jenny
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