"She gave me a lot to eat."
Translation:Elle m'a donné beaucoup à manger.
This isn't the hard and fast rule you were looking for, and I don't think you'll find one since the word "to" itself is used in many ways, but "beaucoup de [choses]" means "a lot of [things]" while "beaucoup à [+ infinitive]" means "a lot to [infinitive]. E.g. "beaucoup à faire" -> "a lot to do"; "beaucoup à dire" -> "a lot to say"
Adverbs of quantity such as: beaucoup, assez, moins, etc. are often followed by de + noun. However, if a verb follows the quantity then you use à
Il y a beaucoup de problèmes - There are a lot of problems.
Je n'ai rien à faire aujourd'hui - I have nothing to do today
J'ai beaucoup à faire. - I have a lot to do
and note that beaucoup à can occur in sentences such as:
J’aime les monuments. Il y en a beaucoup à Paris - I like monuments. There are lots of them in Paris.
This is driving me insane@@!!!!! When does the participle agree - and with what? I would have thought that here, SHE gave so; Elle a donnée??? But no, it is Elle m'a donné But in another sentence it was La pomme qu'IL m'a donnée, but neither Il nor me is definitely feminine. Other past participles don't seem to agree at all.
The participle must agree with the subject when the auxiliary verb is être. It does not (normally) agree when avoir is the auxiliary....except when the direct object precedes the conjugated verb. In the sentence, "elle m'a donné beaucoup à manger", avoir is the auxiliary verb and the direct object is AFTER the verb (so no agreement). In the phrase, "La pomme qu'il m'a donnée", la pomme (fem) is the direct object and it is BEFORE the conjugated verb so the past participle must agree (fem: donnée). Here's another example: J'ai acheté la voiture = I bought the car. Je l'ai achetée = I bought it (i.e., la voiture, feminine) so the past participle must agree with the feminine object preceding the conjugated verb, represented by "l". Hope this helps.
Edit: That was the wrong answer, because "m' " is NOT the direct object, it is the indirect object!
So, the direct object doesn't appear before the auxiliary verb, because there isn't one!
When the auxiliary verb "avoir" is used, the participle needs to match the gender of the direct object ( m' in this case ) if it appears before the auxiliary verb.
So, in this case we don't know the gender of " m' " so both donné and donnée should be acceptable.
It does not matter, since the direct object is placed after the verb (beaucoup à manger).
The auxiliary is "avoir", so the past participle agrees exclusively with the direct object if the latter is placed in front of the verb.
"m' " is the indirect object: donner quelque chose à quelqu'un
Bottom line: the past participle remains masculine singular by default.
It is not correct to use donnée in this sentence. To understand why you need to be aware of the following two points:
the verb donner is one of the few French verbs that takes an indirect object pronoun
The participle must agree with the subject when the auxiliary verb is être. It does not (normally) agree when avoir is the auxiliary except when the direct object precedes the conjugated verb.