1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. C'est or il est


C'est or il est

How do I know when to use c'est or il est to state a fact?

October 22, 2015



"Il est" is used when "que" is added in the sentence, for example, "Il est possible qu'il vienne". "C'est" is used for short answers, or when there's no conjunctive in the sentence, for example: Est-ce qu'il est possible qu'elle vienne?-Oui, c'est possible", or "Elle viendra, c'est possible". "C'est" is also used to determine nouns, for example: "C'est un chat", you would never say "il est un chat", it's grammatically incorrect. Also, incorrect is to say "C'est possible que", you must always say "il est possible que". "Il est" is also used if there is sole adjective, nationality, etc. for example: "Il est americain", but "c'est un americain". :)

These are the main rules. Hope it helps. Happy learning! :)


Thanks for the explanation! Can you please help make sense of another sentence given in one of the exercises here:

C'est génial que tu sois allée à Paris!

Shouldn't it be "Il est génial que..."?


The sentence ' le livre c'est le mien' -one of duolingo's - I suspect is an emphatic stress of the book is mine, but for a non -emphatic version is le livre set le mien correct?


For a non-emphatic version it would be "C'est mon livre". :)


The emphatic stress is gained by left-dislocation (dislocation à gauche), typical for colloquial language, which Duolingo seems to like. The non-emphatic version would be "Le livre est le mien" or "Le livre est à moi".

The above explanations are wrong by the way. I suggest consulting some good grammar books as this is a pretty tricky subject. It would take a few pages to explain it adequately.


Thanks for this tip. I looked it up on the web and it has cast a little light into a few of the difficulties I have had in The French language.


Glad to hear. If you're in for a laugh: http://www.slate.fr/story/92325/hollande-dislocation-gauche xD And do consult those grammar books on c'est/ il est and other variants, if you have time. Unfortunately it's one of those things that aren't that simple.


c’est – used to describe a situation, modified adverb, modified noun, proper name and stressed pronoun.

il est – used to describe a person, unmodified adverb, unmodified noun and prepositional phrase.

When describing people and things with être in French, you usually can’t use a personal subject pronoun like “elle”. Instead, you must use the impersonal pronoun “ce”, which can also mean “this” or “that”. Note that “ce” is invariable, so it can never be “ces sont”. You’re going to miss this one in Duolingo a few times before you finally accept this fact.

C’est un homme. — He’s a man. / This is a man. / That is a man. Ce sont des chats. — They’re cats. / These are cats. / Those are cats.

If an adjective, adverb, or both appear after être, then use the personal pronoun.

Elle est belle. — She is beautiful. (Or “It is beautiful.”) Il est très fort. — He is very strong. (Or “It is very strong.”)

As you know, nouns generally need determiners, but one important exception is that professions, nationalities, and religions can act as adjectives after être. This is optional; you can also choose to treat them as nouns.

He is a doctor. — Il est médecin. / C’est un médecin.

Il est Il est médecin. (describes person) C’est un médecin. (describes situation)

C’est should be used when using an adjective to make a general comment about (but not describe) a thing or situation.

C’est normal ? — Is this normal? Non, c’est étrange. — No, this is strange


Thank you for asking this question; I never knew there was a difference until now! I've been taking French for 4 years and I've been practicing with Duolingo on the side, yet I have never stopped to think if there was a difference between "C'est" and "il est".

So, I've started to do a bit of research and have come to a conclusion: every source I've used includes information parallel with @toussaintlou 's reply. This user is 100% correct. Now I know how to use "C'est" and "il est" properly!


Thank you. You made me smile today. Merci, beaucoup.


Before articles like un/une or le/la, you need to use C'est instead of il est or elle est.

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.