French Agreement with Direct Object Pronouns

Overview

A direct object is a noun, whether person or thing, that someone or something acts upon. Keep in mind, in order to avoid repeating nouns in a series of sentences or when answering questions, both French and English replace direct objects with direct object pronouns.

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In the previous module, you learned about replacing direct objects with direct object pronouns in sentences. An important component to that is understanding the new and different placement of the direct object pronoun itself. To fully understand how to use direct object pronouns in French, we’ll learn one additional rule.

Look at these examples of direct object pronouns in the passé composé:

  1. Tu as donné le crayon à ton camarade de classe. → Tu l’as donné à ton camarade de classe.
  2. J’ai écrit la lettre. → Je l’ai é
  3. Elles ont regardé les deux films d’horror au cinéma. → Elles les ont regardés au cinéma.
  4. Nous avons tenu (held) nos bouteilles. → Nous les avons tenues.

What do you notice about these sentences that is similar and different to the examples in the previous module?

Of course, the placement of the direct object pronouns is the same as the previous examples; they come before the conjugated verb. Except this time, you must recognize that this conjugated verb is the auxiliary verb of the passé composé. The most important difference is seen in the past participles, or the second component to the passé composé. Notice the different endings of the past participles compared to each original sentence. You’ll see that some look the same as the original (sentence 1), and the others add on either an -e, -s, or -es.

The Rule

The rule for using direct object pronouns in the passé composé is that the past participle must agree in gender and number of the direct object pronoun. That means that it must also agree with the direct object that the direct object pronoun is replacing. This means that you will be making agreement in the passé composé using avoir which was not learned previously in A2.1.

Take a look at these four example sentences again:

  1. Tu as donné le crayon à ton camarade de classe. → Tu l’as donné à ton camarade de classe.
  2. J’ai écrit la lettre. → Je l’ai écrite.
  3. Elles ont regardé les deux films d’horror au cinéma. → Elles les ont regardés au cinéma.
  4. Nous avons tenu (held) nos bouteilles. → Nous les avons tenues.

What you see in pink are the direct objects that are replaced with the corresponding direct object pronouns. Notice how the position of the pink and yellow (the passé composé) flip when the direct object pronoun is used. Each one comes before the auxiliary verb avoir. What you see in green on the end of the past participle is the agreement. The endings agree in gender and in number with the direct object/direct object pronoun.

Gender/NumberAdd…ExampleTranslation
Masculine SingularNothing. There is no additional agreementJ’ai acheté le frigo. → Je l’ai acheté.I bought the refrigerator. → I bought it
Feminine Singular-eJ’ai sorti la poubelle. → Je l’ai sortie.I took out the trash. → I took it out.
Masculine Plural-sJ’ai invité Solenn et Yann. → Je les ai invités.I invited Solenn et Yann. → I invited them.
Femine Plural-esJ’ai vu Tatianne et Jessica. → Je les ai vues.I saw Tatianne et Jessica. → I saw them.

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