Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 94): les verbes pronominal en les temps composé


How to use pronominal verbs in the passé composé and other compound tenses

In compound tenses like the passé composé, all pronominal verbs are être verbs, which means two things:

  1. The auxiliary verb is être
  2. The past participle may need to agree with the subject in gender and number

In compound tenses, the reflexive pronoun precedes the auxiliary verb, not the past participle:

Elle s’est couchée à minuit. She went to bed at midnight.
Ils s’étaient vus à la banque. They had seen one another at the bank.
Après m’être habillé, j’ai allumé la télé. After getting dressed, I turned on the TV.

Agreement with pronominal verbs
When pronominal verbs are in the compound tenses, the past participle has to agree with the reflexive pronoun when the pronoun is a direct object but not when it’s an indirect object. So the trick is to figure out whether the reflexive pronoun is direct or indirect.

1. For most* pronominal verbs that are not followed by a noun, the reflexive pronoun is the direct object, so the past participle needs to agree with it.

Nous nous sommes douchés. We showered.
Marianne s’est fâchée. Marianne got mad.

2. Likewise, with a pronominal verb plus a preposition plus a noun, the reflexive pronoun is the direct object, so you need agreement:

Elle s’est occupée du chien. She took care of the dog.
Ils se sont souvenus de la pièce. They remembered the play.

3. When a pronominal verb is followed directly by a noun with no preposition in between, the reflexive pronoun is indirect, therefore there is no agreement:

Nous nous sommes acheté une voiture.
xxx Nous nous sommes achetés une voiture. xxx
We bought ourselves a car.

Elle s’est dit la vérité.
xxx Elle s’est dite la vérité. xxx
She told herself the truth.

4. When you have a sentence with a reflexive pronoun plus an object pronoun, the reflexive pronoun is always the indirect object, so there is no agreement with it. However, there is agreement with the object pronoun, per the rules of direct object pronoun agreement:

Nous nous le sommes acheté. (Le livre is masculine)
We bought it (the book) for ourselves.

Nous nous la sommes achetée. (La voiture is feminine)
We bought it (the car) for ourselves.

Elle se l’est dit. (Le mensonge is masculine)
She told it (the lie) to herself.

Elle se l’est dite. (La vérité is feminine)
She told it (the truth) to herself.

*5. For the following verbs, the reflexive pronoun is always an indirect object so the past participle does not agree with it:

s’acheter to buy (for) o.s.
se demander to wonder
se dire to say (to o.s. / e.o.)
se donner to give (to e.o.)
s’écrire to write (to e.o.)
se faire mal to hurt o.s.
s’imaginer to imagine, think
se parler to talk (to o.s. / e.o.)
se plaire (à faire…) to enjoy (doing…)
se procurer to obtain (for o.s.)
se promettre to promise (o.s. / e.o.)
se raconter to tell (e.o.)
se rendre compte de to realize
se rendre visite to visit (e.o.)
se ressembler to resemble (e.o.)
se rire (de quelqu’qun) to mock (someone)
se sourire to smile (at e.o.)
se téléphoner to call (e.o.)
Key: e.o. = each other   o.s. = oneself

Nous nous sommes souri.
xxx Nous nous sommes souris. xxx
We smiled at each other.

Elles se sont parlé.
xxx Elles se sont parlées. xxx
They talked to each other.


2 Responses to Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 94): les verbes pronominal en les temps composé

  1. Christian Joli says:

    Very interesting “lesson”; congratulations!
    May I point out, with no intention to hurt feelings, that your title should read “Apprendre la Langue Française (94e partie) : les verbes pronominaux aux temps composés”.
    Keep up the otherwise very good work,
    Kind regards,

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