I've been solving exercices in a book called practice makes perfect (linked down below) And in the Plus-que parfait exercices (page 82,81. 10.2 Exercice. N.3, N.10) there are those two sentences which are really confusing me :

Tu (se demander) ....... s'il était allergique. Elles (s'écrire) ..... pendant des années.

The answers ,according to the Answer Key, should be (t'etais demandé(e), s'étaient écrites) but I don't understand why there is an agreement here. I thought that reciprocal verbs which take an indirect object its past participle does not agree with the subject. And worth noting also that in the exercices of the Passe Composé there are those two similar sentence which have no agreement (page 63) :

Ils se sont écrit de long lettres. Nous nous sommes demandé pourquoi il était absent.

And here's a part of the book explanation for the past participle agreement thing (page 62,63) :

"When reciprocal verbs take an indirect object in French, the past participle does not agree.

Ils se sont téléphoné. They called each other.

Vous vous êtes parlé au téléphone. You talked to each other on the phone.

Ils se sont écrit de longues lettres. They wrote each other long letters."

and here's the whole explanation as whenever I try to copy it, its format always gets messed up somehow

Book link : ( https://archive.org/details/practice-makes-perfect-complete-french-grammar/page/n94 )

Note : please don't explain in french. My french isn't that advanced yet and it will be super hard to understand it.

2 Answers 2


You are right, there shouldn't be an agreement.

As you can see, both t' and s' are indirect objects here : to whom did you ask etc.? to whom did they write ? etc.

As per the rule you quoted near the end of your post, when reciprocal verbs take an indirect object, the past participle does not agree.

Therefore it should be:

Tu t'étais demandé s'il était allergique.

Elles s'étaient écrit pendant des années.

  • That's so strange, I haven't seen any mistakes in that book so far let alone that's not only one but two.
    – Manar
    May 31, 2019 at 14:47
  • 2
    Mistakes happen :) Looks like ils s'étaient trompés.
    – mcadorel
    May 31, 2019 at 14:57

The agreement in the case of "tu étais réveillé(e)" for example depends on the sex of the person who is talking/whose you are talking to (the subject). There is no indirect object here. It is a simple agreement like "tu es intelligente" when you are saying that to a girl.

The agreement in "elles s'étaient écrites pendant des années" (and so "tu t'étais demandé s'il était allergique" is different, because you can say "à qui / à quoi / de qui / …" after the object that means it is an indirect object. And in that case indeed the past participle never agrees, even with "être". As you may know, past participle agrees when "être" but not "avoir" in the case of a direct object.

  • so what is the difference between those two sentence and why there is an agreement in one of them and not the other even tho they've the same verb (se demander) : Nous nous sommes demandé pourquoi il était absent. Tu t'etais demandé(e) s'il était allergique
    – Manar
    May 31, 2019 at 14:34
  • Shouldn't (se demander) don't agree in the seecond one as I can say : demander à quelqu'un.
    – Manar
    May 31, 2019 at 14:35
  • As you can see in the first one (nous nous sommes demandé...) there is an indirect object with the reflexive pronoun.
    – purerstamp
    May 31, 2019 at 14:41
  • 1
    Oh I'm sorry I just didn't notice that it was in fact se demander as you said in your comment that's why I got confused ! But the rule as explained above is still correct even if it doesn't explicitely respond to your question.. I'm very sorry for that.
    – purerstamp
    May 31, 2019 at 20:54
  • 1
    Yeah because in fact it was my mistake and I was thinking about demander and not se demander. And please don't apologise, it's my fault actually :/ I've just corrected it.
    – purerstamp
    May 31, 2019 at 21:25

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