Grammatical French Agreement

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Agreement, the correspondence of gender, number, and/or person, is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of the French language. This lesson summarizes all the different types of agreement and includes links to detailed lessons on each grammatical point.

The Many Types of Agreements

All types of French adjectives (e.g., descriptive, possessive, negative) agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify.
Ces livres sont intéressants. These books are interesting.
Ma grande maison verte. My big green house.
Exceptions: Adjectives used as adverbs - Invariable Adjectives
Definite, indefinite, and partitive articles each have three forms: masculine, feminine, and plural.
le livre, la table, les stylos the book, the table, the pens
un homme, une femme, des enfants a man, a woman, some children
du fromage, de la salade, des pommes some cheese, some salad, some apples
Nearly all French nouns have different forms for singular and plural. In addition, many nouns that refer to people have both a masculine and a feminine form.
un cousin, une cousine, des cousins, des cousines cousin(s)
un invité, une invitée, des invités, des invitées guest(s)
un acteur, une actrice, des acteurs, des actrices actor(s)/actress(es)
Nouns: Compound
Compound nouns have their own special rules for pluralization and gender
des oiseaux-mouches hummingbirds
des gratte-ciel skyscrapers
Pronouns: Impersonal
Some impersonal pronouns (e.g., demonstratives, possessives) change to agree in gender and number with the nouns they replace.
Celle qui parle, c'est ma femme. The one who is speaking is my wife.
D'autres vont venir. Others are going to come.
Lesquels voulez-vous ? Which ones do you want?
Pronouns: Personal
All personal pronouns (e.g., subject, object, stressed) change according to the grammatical person that they represent.
Je te parle. I'm talking to you.
Il va nous donner les clés. He's going to give us the keys.
Dis-moi ! Tell me!
Verbs: Avoir verbs
Verbs which take avoir as the auxiliary verb in the compound tenses do not normally require agreement. However, when the direct object precedes the conjugated verb, the verb must agree with it.
J'ai acheté la voiture --> Je l'ai achetée. I bought the car --> I bought it.
Les livres que j'avais reçus... The books I had received...
Verbs: Être verbs
The past participle of any verb conjugated with être in the compound tenses has to agree with the subject in number and gender.
Nous sommes allés au cinéma. We went to the movies.
Lise était déjà arrivée quand... Lise had already arrived when...
Verbs: Passive voice
The passive voice construction is like that of an être verb, with the auxiliary verb être + past participle. The past participle has to agree with the subject, not the agent, in gender and number.
Les voitures ont été lavées. The cars were washed.
La leçon sera écrite par un étudiant. The lesson will be written by a student.
Verbs: Pronominal verbs
In compound tenses, pronominal verbs are conjugated with être, which means that the past participle must agree with the subject. (Except when the pronoun is the indirect object)
Ana s'est levée. Ana got up.
Ils se seraient arrêtés, mais... They would have stopped, but...
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Team, ThoughtCo. "Grammatical French Agreement." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Grammatical French Agreement. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Grammatical French Agreement." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).