Advanced / Grammar / intermediate / Intermediate - advanced

Birds In Their Little Nests Agree – Or Not (2)

In my last post, we discussed about whether a participle (second part of a two-part verb) agrees or not: meaning, do you put an s or an e there and when.

This post will be about agreements when the compound verb is conjugated with avoir.

Because yes, my friends, it sometimes agrees.

And when it does, it’s never with the subject: always with the OBJECT.


Let’s remind ourselves of the different parts of a sentence:

l'enfant a mangé la pomme


So, how come it doesn’t “agree” with the object here (meaning mangé remains mangé and doesn’t become mangée)? You say.

Because, I say, it occurs ONLY when the said object happens BEFORE the verb in a given sentence:

la pomme que l'enfant a mangée


pomme mangée


La pomme l'enfant l'a mangée


But CAREFUL! The object MUST be direct. That is, there is no preposition between it and the verb:

l'enfant a mangé à la pomme


If there is a preposition (à, de, pour, sans, avec…) between the verb and its object, then it doesn’t work: the verb DOESN’T agree:

les amis avec qui j'ai joué


les pomme j'en ai mangé



(À sa mère): Elle lui a donné des fleurs. (LISTEN)
(To her mother) She gave her flowers.

—> Elle a donné les fleurs à sa mère.

Voici les articles dont je vous avais parlé. (LISTEN)
Here are the articles that I talked to you about. 

—> Je vous avais parlé de ces articles.


Let’s recap

Before writing a verb in the past, think twice! (or thrice…). Follow these steps:


STEP 1. Is the verb in a past tense?

Some double verbs are not: and then, this annoying little rule doesn’t apply anymore. Example:

Elle va marcher. (LISTEN)
She’s going to walk.

Nous voulons manger. (LISTEN)
We want to eat.

If it is, however, on to step 2.


STEP 2. What is the auxiliary (the first part): être or avoir?

If it’s être, agree the verb with the SUBJECT.

Elles sont parties(LISTEN)
They left.

If it’s avoir, on to  step 3.


STEP 3. Is the object direct or not?

If it isn’t, then don’t agree.

Les gens devant lesquels nous avons chanté (LISTEN)
The people in front of whom we sang

If it is, on to step 4.


STEP 4. Is the object masculine, feminine, singular or plural?

Le cadeau que je t’ai donné(LISTEN)
The gift I gave you.

Les cadeaux que je t’ai donnés(LISTEN)
The gifts I gave you.





There Is A Trick…

Whoa! Does it mean you should remember all these steps every time you write something?

No. Here’s a trick: When writing a verb in a compound past using avoir, scan the words that come before it. If you happen to see one of these, then, Red alert! Your verb WILL agree:

.    que    les     la     l'


Try it for yourself!



il a bu un peu de café


Oui, c’est ça!

Il a bu un peu de café au déjeuner. (LISTEN)
He had a little bit of coffee over breakfast.


Try again:

ce sont les factures


ce sont les factures 2


(We know that facture is feminine…)


Oui, c’est ça!

Ce sont les factures que j’ai payées. (LISTEN)
These are the bills I paid.


One more:

la clé tu l'as donné___


la clé tu l'as donné___2


Oui, c’est ça!

La clé? Tu l’as donnée à Jeff. (LISTEN)
The key? You gave it to Jeff.


Practice some more with these online interactive exercises:

Click on the correct answer (Le point du FLE);

Multiple choice test (Karin Ermel / Übersicht Französisch / OS Region Murten – Suisse);

Click on the correct answer (Espace franç

Click on the correct answer (Visez juste, Université d’Ottawa, Canada)


© Ouicestca 2013, tous droits réservés.

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One thought on “Birds In Their Little Nests Agree – Or Not (2)

  1. Pingback: Birds In Their Little Nests Agree – Or Not | Oui, c'est ça!

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