Participle Agreement
with a Preceding Direct Object

The past participle of the passé composé, will always reflect the gender and number of a preceding direct object (see Object Pronouns).

La gloire, je l'ai connue, je l'ai vue. --Honoré de Balzac 
Glory, I knew it, I saw it.

La liberté appartient à ceux qui l'ont conquise.
--  André Malraux
Liberty belongs to those who conquered it.

J'ai vu la chatte traverser la rue.
I saw the female cat cross the street. ( In this case the direct object, the cat, is not preceding.)

A preceding direct object need not necessarily appear as a pronoun directly in front of the verbal clause. If the passé composé is used inside a relative clause, the modified noun could potentially be a preceding direct object (see Relative Pronouns).


Il a créé la plus forte administration civile que la France ait connue -- André Malraux à propos de  Napoléon 1, Antimémoires.
He created the strongest civil administration France has ever known

Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu'on a perdus. - Marcel Proust
True paradises are paradises we have lost.

Also in questions, the interrogative pronoun often counts as a preceding direct object.

If the subject is the direct object of the verb, the past participle of the passé composé will agree with it (See reflexives).

  Elle s'est assise. 
She sat down.

Nous nous sommes peignés.
We combed our hair.

Cosette s'était toujours crue laide.
-- Victor Hugo, Les Misérables 
Cosette always thought herself ugly.

Careful! If the subject is the indirect object of a reflexive sentence, no agreement takes place.

In addition when the reflexive takes an object, the past participle will agree with this object rather than the subject when it is preceding. 


Elle s'est brossée les dents.

Elle se les est brossées.
She brushed her teeth.
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