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In my class we are doing reciprical verbs. Someone in class thought it was couper de and not couper à...ex. Elle s'est coupée le doigt, (no prepostion needed in French)
but, elle a coupé à les cheveux de son frère.
She cut her finger
she cut her brothers hair.

It wouldn't be elle a coupé des cheveux de son frère
or elle a coupé aux cheveux de son frère......
what is correct?

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Hi Pam,

I think you'll find a little bit of variation among speakers, and it will be interesting to see what other people think, but the one I don't think you'll find is aux cheveux. Theoretically, you could envisage the construction ??Je l'ai coupé aux cheveux, but in practice I don't think speakers would use this (it's a bit like some cases in English: you could theoretically envisage I gave a headache to him, but practically always the sentence would be I gave him a headache).

So I think the two constructions that would be used, depending on the speaker (and possibly on the particular emphasis you wanted to place), are:

Elle a coupé les cheveux de son frère
Elle a coupé les cheveux à son frère

From what I understand from when speakers have been polled about this in the past, the first one is actually more common, and Google searches appear to bear this out (note though, with a pronoun, Elle lui a coupé les cheveux seems common enough).

As I say though, there does seem to be some variation, so it'll be interesting to see what some of the French speakers on the forum think.

"Elle a coupé les cheveux à son frère" is common but sounds a bit uneducated and the variant with de is indeed way more common.

However, I don't know if "she cut her brothers hair" in English has the same meaning than "she had her hair cut by her brother", but "Elle a coupé les cheveux de son frère" is slightly different from "Elle s'est fait couper les cheveux par son frère" (although, grammatically speaking, they should be identical).

The former means that her brother has cut her hair, but she didn't want to. It's something stupid.
The later means that her brother made a decent-looking hairdo, maybe because he's working as a hairdresser.

"Je l'ai coupé aux cheveux" is perfectly correct and we could say that but the meaning is totally different.

"couper" is often used as a way to say "to interrupt a conversation".
"Je l'ai coupé aux cheveux" means "I interrupted his conversation as soon as he started to talk about hair".
Wow! This is fascinating! It just shows how far I have to go in the language of French! It's a bit intimidating!
Thank you Neil and Frank!
I am chuckling at your in depth explanations Frank. You should be a teacher, but then, you could be a comedian too! MERCI!
Both are incorrect you would say : Elle a coupe les cheveux de son frere and elle s'est coupee le doigt is correct.

it should be elle s'est coupé le doigt here she is the indirect object therefore no feminine agreement

because there is no F agreement with this one, BUT
Elle s'est coupée. She cut herself. She is the direct object herself.

Pam PS, I am studying this for exams, so it must be precise!


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