What is the difference?
The direct object (la voiture) preceds the verb in example 2. In other words, the verb (past participle) comes after la voiture.
- C’est la voiture (direct object) que j’ai vue (past participle)
This is the first criteria that needs to be met. There is one more:
- If the direct object is placed before the verb, the past participle should agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to.
Indirect objects will not agree in gender and number.
We are going to look at many examples in this article. Please bear with me if you don’t understand right away.
Let’s begin by looking at 2 examples:
- Tu as vu la femme? – Je l’ai vue
Comment: We add an e because la femme is feminine.
- Tu as vu tes soeurs? Je les ai vues
Comment: Same thing, we add an e. However, we also have to add an s to indicate the plural form.
- Il a invité ses amis – Il les a invités
Comment: We add an s because les amis is in the plural form.
- J’ai acheté une voiture – Il l’a achetée
Comment: We add an e because la voiture is in the feminine singular form.
- Elle a mangé des pommes sucrées- Les pommes qu’elle a mangées étaient sucrées
Comment: Les pommes is in the plural form and the noun is feminine (une pomme). Thus, we add an e and an s.
- J’ai compris les regles difficiles – Les regles que j’ai comprises étaient difficiles
Comment: Les regles is in the plural form and the noun is feminine (la règle). Thus, we add an e and an s.
Are you starting to get the hang of it?
These examples represent 3 important lessons:
1. The direct object comes after the verb in the first part of the sentence. In this case, there is no agreement. For instance:
- Il a invité (verb) ses amis (direct object)
2. The direct object comes before the verb in the second part of the sentence. In this case, the past participle will agree in gender and number. For instance:
- Les amis (direct object) qu’il a invités (verb)
3. The past participle must agree in gender and number. For instance:
- Les pommes qu’elle a mangées
- La série que j’ai regardée
What happens with the past participle if the indirect object is placed before or after the verb?
- Il a pardonné à sa soeur – Il lui a pardonné
- Elle a parle à sa mère – Elle lui a parlé
- J’ai téléphoné ma mère – Je lui ai téléphoné
The verb will not change, even if the indirect object is placed before the verb. In other words:
The past participle will not agree in gender and number.
This is step number one.
We need to identify the placement of the direct object (la série).
In this case, we have placed it in the end of the sentence.
In other words, the past participle comes before the direct object (la série).
Look at the difference in these two phrases:
- J’ai décidé de regarder une série (I decided to watch a series),
- Je l‘ai régardée (I watched it).
In example number 2, the l’ (la) comes before the past participle (régardée).
In this case, we need to add an e to regardé because la série is a feminine noun.
Voir (vu) will require a direct object. Thus, the past participle must agree in gender and number.
However, in this case we don’t need to add anything. Why?
Film is a masculine noun (un film) in the singular form .
In this exercise, we can apply the same rules. That is, voir (vu) will require a direct object.
However, now we are referring to a feminine noun – la maison.
Therefore, we need to add an e to vu.
More of the same.
We can conclude that we need to adjust voir (vu).
It’s the noun vache that will decide what we need to change.
In this case, la vache is a feminine noun, it’s also in the plural form les vaches.
Thus, we will add an e to express the feminine form, and an s to express the plural form.
This is the last exercise including voir, I promise 🙂
I’ve added different nouns in order to show the difference in agreement of the past participle.
In this example, we are referring to a noun in the plural form des chiens.
Le chien is also a masculine noun.
There is no need to change the past participle for a masculine noun (We did not change anything in the previous example including le film.)
However, in this case we are also referring to a noun in the plural form.
Thus, we’ll add an s to vu.
In this example, the past participle comes after the direct object.
You could say that all the conditions are fulfilled.
However, le jouet is a masculine noun in the singular form.
In this case, there is no agreement of the past participle.
Let’s look at the same sentence with a different noun:
- Je cherché la serviette – Je l’ai cherchée
A feminine noun (la serviette) will require an extra e.
I hope this explanation makes sense. Please leave a comment if you don’t understand.
écouter will require a direct object.
Thus, it must agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to.
We are referring to mes amis, a group of people in the masculine form.
(We would write mes amies if it was a group of women)
Therefore, we’ll add an s to écouté.
We will not add an extra e as we are not referring to a feminine noun.
Pardonner à will require an indirect object.
We’ll use an indirect pronoun to say them – leur.
In this case, we’ll not agree the verb in gender and number.
Adding e and s would only be correct if we were referring to a direct object.
Parler can not take a direct object.
So, we can not change the verb based on gender and number.
It does not matter that we are referring to a woman in this exercise.
Thus, the correct answer is:
- Je lui ai parlé
Prendre (pris) needs to agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to (la photo).
We need to add an S to express the plural form. We will add an E to both options, because photo (la photo) is a feminine noun.
I would say that manger is a typical verb in this context (agreement of the past particple).
Manger is usually included in the first example of every text book.
It’s a common verb that takes a direct object, and it needs to agree in gender and number.
Une cerise is a feminine noun.
Thus, we need to add an e and an s.
This one is a bit tricky.
We are using a reflexive pronoun (se) to express a reciprocal action.
However, we are using a verb that is constructed with an indirect object – écrire à
In this case, the past particle écrit will remain écrit. That is, no agreement.
Let me show you an example where the opposite is true:
- Ils se sont vus: They saw each other.
Voir takes a direct object. Thus, we’ll modifiy the past participle vu(s).
I know that this can be difficult to understand. But don’t worry, more exercises on this specific problem will be published shortly 🙂
Do you remember the basic rules of le passé composé? The rules we are taught in the beginning of our studies. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Avoir: Will not agree in gender and number. For instance:
- J’ai dormi: l slept.
- Elle a rencontré sa soeur: She meet her sister.
- Ile a oublié sa veste: She forgot her jacket.
- Elle a compris la lecon: She understood the lesson.
- J’ai appris la lacon: La lecon que j’ai apprise
Être: Will agree in gender and number. For instance:
- Je suis parti(e): I left
- Elle est devenue méchante: She became mean.
- Elles sont revenues: They returned.
We can now conclude that these rules are correct. However, sometimes we need to modify the rules for avoir. In this article, we have seen that the past participle needs to agree in gender and number if the direct object comes before the verb.
We can reuse the last sentence in the examples above (for avoir):
- J’ai appris la lecon – La lecon que j’ai apprise
You are more than welcome to leave a comment if you have any questions. I enjoy answerings questions as they help me to understand different parts of the french language better.
It should be noted that there are more factors to cover regarding the past participle and avoir. However, the contents of this subject tends to be difficult to digest. This introduction will therefore do for now 🙂
But, I will develop the theories in this article later on.