Reflexive Verbs II – Past Participle Agreement



Reflexive Verbs II – Past Participle Agreement

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To build the Passé Composé, there is just one auxiliary verb, the verb to be: être

Je me suis lavé (reflexive), but j’ai lavé la voiture, with the verb to have.

However, as for the agreement, it works like the verb to have, ups, the verb to be acts like to have?
Yes, we need some examples to understand it better, but have a look at the lesson about the agreement of the past participle with the verb to have first.

To summarize the lesson about the agreement of the past participle, we can say that:
- There is an agrement between the past participle and the direct object if the direct object is before the verb to have.

Examples:

Il s’est lavé: he washed himself, we say that the verb to be for the reflexive verbs has the behaviour of the verb to have, so when we say “il s’est lavé” we could say “il a lavé lui-même” (even if it is not perfect French). The direct object is “lui-même” after the verb to have, so no agreement. “Lui-même” becomes s’ in the sentence “il s’est lavé“, in this case, it is before the verb to have, so there is an agreement, however it is masculine so no change.
Let’s take another example: elle s’est lavée, there is an agreement, let’s explain why:
Elle s’est lavée can be elle a lavé elle-même, so s’ is feminine, placed before the verb to have, there is an agreement between the past participle and the direct object so we need a final e for lavée!

Another example:

They (she) enjoyed themselves: elles se sont amusées.
Remember that the agreement is with “se” and not with the sibject “elles“, “se” means “elles-mêmes“, so feminine and plural, before the verb to have, there is an agreement.

It works with direct object but not with indirect objects (an indirect object is when it is separated from the verb with a preposition):

They talked to each other: Elles se sont parlé, there is no agreement because “se” is an indirect object, why? the verb is “parler à” (talk to) with the preposition ‘à’, for this reason, no agreement!

More tricky:

Elles se sont serrées: They clasped in their arms, here “se” is a direct object as the verb is serrer quelqu’un, se is for elles-mêmes (elles ont serré elles-mêmes or l’une l’autre) so there is an agreement: serrées!
Elles se sont serré la main, where is the direct object here? it is “la main” (they shook their hands), the direct object is after the verb to have so no agreement. In this case “se” is an indirect object because we can say: elles ont serré la main à elles-mêmes.

I understand it is not easy, however don’t worry, many French people even don’t remember this rule and make mistakes. For the first group verbs there is no difference between lavé and lavées when you pronounce them.

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2 thoughts on “Reflexive Verbs II – Past Participle Agreement

  1. nhan Krauth

    merci beaucoup nous nous sommes regale de votre lecon
    regale sans s n est ce pas parce que se regaler DE

  2. admin Post author

    Reply to Nhan: Régaler is un verbe transitif as you can régaler quelqu’un, so quelqu’un (someone) is the Direct Object, and when you say “se régaler” “se” is the direct object, so “nous nous sommes régalés de votre leçon, there is a direct object, which is “nous” before the verb so “régalés” with an “s”!

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