On les a retrouvés sains et saufs.

On les a retrouvés sains et saufs.

aw lay zah ruh-troo-vay SAA ay SOFE. Click below to hear this!

They were found safe and sound.

Found who? Found what? Could have been anything from car keys to puppy dogs. No, wait, it couldn’t be the keys, because they are feminine, and the rest of the sentence points to something masculine plural. Must have been the doggies, then.

And who found them? It says on, which means we, they, people, someone. What it doesn’t mean is I. Here on implies that more than one person was doing the looking; maybe it was even an organized search. You could just as well translate we found them or they found them.

Is that why there is an s on the end of the verb–because there was more than one person who found whoever was missing?

No, here’s the construction: subject (who’s performing the action) + direct object (who or what is being acted upon) + compound verb (two-part past tense, telling what the action was) + adjectival phrase (describes the people or things in the direct object). The rule is that if a direct object precedes a verb in the passé composé, the past participle acts like an adjective. That explains the s on retrouvés.

Finally, sain et sauf is a bit of an odd expression. It is “fixed” because you can’t change which words go into it, just like safe and sound. We don’t say “safe and round”, or “healthy and sound”.

On the other hand, since these are adjectives, in French they are variable, meaning that they have to agree with the what they are describing. That takes us back to les, our direct object, which requires us to use masculine plural. What if a little girl had been lost and found? We would say saine et sauve.

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