"Ce sont les derniers mots qu'il a écrits."

Translation:These are the last words he wrote.

July 16, 2014


Sorted by top thread


How does one know when the past participle must agree with the object and when it does not. In this sentence, we use ecrits instead of ecrit because mots is plural. In other sentences, the participle does not seem to need to agree with the gender or number.

July 25, 2014



Good question.

When the verb form is avoir, then the past participle agrees with the direct object but only if the direct object is in front of the verb.

Il a is an avoir form. The direct object is plural mots which in this case is in front of the verb. Thus plural past participle. Apparently this is not a concern in ordinary conversation but only in writing and perhaps a formal presentation when speaking.

Direct object placed in front of avoir form obliges agreement between past participle and object. If the direct object is not so placed or is absent, then usually the past participle doesn't need to agree with anything.

Hope this helps.


Why is it "that" instead of "which" as the action is completed by a person and the subjesct is "the words"?


Why "These are the latest words he has written" is wrong?


It is not wrong, probably just hasn't been accepted because no one thought of it before (or then didn't report it as a correct but rejected answer)


Is that true though? Last words (in English) mean just that. The final words - no more words are coming. Whereas latest words just means the most recent words - there may be more to come. Does derniers mots cover both these meanings?


Yes it does. This last/latest distinction is a common minor hurdle for native speakers of french learning English, actually. Many times, the context makes it clear which is meant (as in, why would bother even mentioning someone's latest breath), and when it is not there are common ways to stress what you mean:

  • "son dernier livre en date" > to be understood as 'to this day', so his latest book
  • use of non present tense "ce seront ses derniers mots" or "c'étaient ses derniers mots" tend to push to a 'definitive' meaning, therefore "his last words"

In the sentence here, 'latest' is acceptable on principle because you could imagine a context where, etc. But it sounds much more likely that 'last' is meant, i'll definitively give you that.


Thanks, I was genuinely unsure about that. I've also learnt that 'en date' mean 'to this day' - another use of the over-worked 'en' that I wasn't aware of. :-)


Glad it helps. Watch out for that 'en date' though, it's not that common and would often be odd if you just used it as the english "to this day". I'm actually tempted to say you'll see it only used with 'dernier', exactly the way i showed.

'to this day' on its own would become 'au jour d'aujourd'hui', which is not exactly light nor elegant, but actually used.


To the day to the day of 'hui' - Yes, doesn't exactly trip off the tongue does it? :-)


Why ecrits and not ecrit?


Agreement with direct object - see northernguy's explanation above or read here:



Would be final or finale


I believe that verb agreement here falls under the "passive use" rubric. To parse the sentence, "These are the last words" is the main clause, while "that he wrote" is the subjunctive clause. "These last words" are not the direct object, but the subject.


Had it been ok to say 'ces sont les derniers mots....' instead of just 'ce' are the two ok in this sentence maybe?

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