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I am having difficulty in getting the verb conjugation right in passive voice. I read somewhere that the verb takes the number and gender of the agent («subject» in English) . Is it true?

Consider the following sentences (which are confusing me, «?» indicates what I am not sure of):

  • Le rapport a été fait (or faite?) par Gregoire.
  • Julien atteinte (?) par Louise. (Is it the correct passive for “Louise attend Julien”?)
  • Les matchs est regardés (?) par des milliers de spectateurs.
  • La nouvelle est annoncée (?) par la presse.

And this one is really difficult

  • Le chateau a été construit par l'architecte. (Is this sentence okay?)
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, in the passive form, the past participle will take the number and gender of the subject. As for the auxiliary être, it'll follow the standard passé composé conjugation.

  • rapport is masculine singular, so it should be

    Le rapport a été fait par Grégoire.

  • Julien is a boy's name. Also, the past participle for attendre (to wait for) is attendu, not atteint (which comes from atteindre, to reach)

    Julian est attendu par Louise

  • matchs is masculine plural (note that the tense of this sentence is not passé composé, but present)

    Les matchs sont regardés par des milliers de spectateurs

  • nouvelle is feminine singular (same as previous sentence, this is present tense)

    La nouvelle est annoncée par la presse

  • chateau is masculine singular

    Le chateau a été construit par l'architecte

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Salut Alexis. Pardon me for this but I have a basic question. in «Le rapport a été fait par Grégoire», isn't the subject Gregoire? It is not Gregoire who is doing the action on the report? Going by bullet points the form of verb depends on object, no? –  Abhimanyu Arora Aug 19 '13 at 13:55
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Unless the terms are inverted between French and English grammars (none of which I'm a specialist in, I'm just a native French with a decent level of English), I think you are wrong. rapport is the subject (sujet in French) and Grégoire is the agent (complément d'agent in French). The fact that Grégoire is actually a person carrying out an action isn't relevant when determining the syntax role of the words. –  Alexis Pigeon Aug 19 '13 at 14:11
    
I think this is a VERY useful point. Yes, English speakers should be careful in this respect. –  Abhimanyu Arora Aug 19 '13 at 14:30
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Indeed. I just copied from your question. –  Alexis Pigeon Aug 19 '13 at 19:31
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I think you should fix your first sentence, the auxiliary doesn't “take the gender and the number” of the subject; it's more a standard verb ending based on the person. In particular gender is totally irrelevant. –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 20 '13 at 9:02
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Passive voice is obtained with “être” as an auxiliary verb. Être is conjugated with the appropriate tense and followed with the past participle of the main verb.

One example in present tense:

La souris est mangée par le chat.

To build passive with a compound tense, the same applies. The “être” auxiliary is conjugated using the “avoir” auxiliary (conjugated avoir + été) and the past participle of the main verb follows.

This example is in passé composé tense:

La souris a été mangée par le chat.

Concerning agreements of past participles, only the one from the main verb receives distinctive inflections for feminine or plurals according to the same rules as for the active voice. Notice that the auxiliary of the main verb is always être. Hence, the agreement is made with the subject (here la souris), not with the agent (here le chat).

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