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A modified noun is preceded by a determiner (article, possessive, demonstrative, number). This construction with "c'est" or "ce sont" (plural form) is used for human beings specifically and for a number of English versions:
he is a boy = c'est un garçon
he is a good boy = c'est un bon garçon (noun modified with adjective?)
they are my cousins = ce sont mes cousins
it is a wall = c'est un mur
this is mine = c'est à moi
I said that "c'est" is used to match a number of English versions - ie with personal pronouns (human beings), with "it" (impersonal/objects/animals) and even "this" or "that".
To clarify the issue, maybe you could try and remember 2 tips:
- in English you would not say "it is a <human being>", but he/she. But in French, you can use the impersonal "c'est" construction.
- "they" applying both to human or non human subjects (plural of he/she but also plural of it), when you translate into French, you say "ce sont".
Or learn by heart the examples I gave you earlier to try and remember them when you have to translate from English to French.
Is there a way to mark comments so that you can come back to review them ? Coming back to French after speaking English almost exclusively, I keep tripping up on the c'est vs il est but your note here is extremely helpful and I should like to come back to it should I need to... :/
What I do to remember stuff like this is I get a post-it note and write the name of the tip (eg "il est VS c'est"). Then on the back I write some clues or helpful notes to help me remember. Then if I get stuck, all I have is do is look for the correct post-it note and turn it over for help.
I am trying to understand when to use ''c'est'' and when ''il est'' and I can't seem to grasp it. Even though I've read french.about's lessons and did all the exercises there are so much contradictions. Even you, now you said that it is for human beings specifically, and then you say that ''it is a wall'' should be translated ''c'est un mur''. I know that even walls have ears, but they are not a human being last time I checked :)
Please read this, it is even better than french.about:
Hi, I had the exact same confusion and asked a friend in France who is a French teacher. According to her "we always use c'est before preposition" For eg. Il est jeune, c'est un garçon. Normally we would wanna use "il est un garçon" isn't it. But not in French :) I've realised that this was the best way for me to spot when to use c'est instead of Il/Elle.
Have you read this? http://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/cest-versus-il-elle-est
"il est un garçon" sounds like old French (and it is) and modern French does not use it any more (why? I don't have a clue...).
You have probably come across the famous "he is a professor" in earlier lessons. That example is typical because it has two correct translations:
il est professeur: professions drop the article, then "professeur" is a non-modified noun, then you can keep "il est"
c'est un professeur: professeur is modified by article "un", then you have to change "il est un..." to "c'est un..."
Above you said il est un garçon is old French. So could part of the reason I get tripped up be because I learned French from my grand-mère ? When I was in France, I remember people occasionally giggling good naturedly and saying that I spoke very old fashioned French. If so, what are other things I should be looking out for ?
it should. I was also given three options: because, for, and as. I used for, and the site took it as correct. why it wouldn't take as, i dont know. But whenever I use one of the options that is not the most common (which is usually the case), then it takes it. I am not sure why it wouldn't for you.
Make a 'game' of it, try to think of a way that you could use it. Here for instance there could be a debate over an abstract painting of someone regarding whether it was an old or young male in the painting. You settle the argument by saying "he is young, because he is a boy", pointing to the previously unseen title of the work "Boy, in Abstract".
Focusing on the seeming inanity of sentences only hurts your ability to remember to main point that is being taught.
Sitesurf, je suis désole. Je ne comprends pas. Where is the adjective? garçon is a noun meaning "boy" now if you said, (Incorrectly?) c'est un garçon sale" he is a dirty (clean, handsome, ugly, happy, sad- anything that describes the boy) boy ( there are your adjectives) wouldn't you then apply the "Il est un garçon sale"...... am I missing something?
The main difference is that "car" is a coordinating conjunction while "parce que" is a subordinating conjunction.
Practically, it just means that "car" cannot start a sentence.
- parce que c'est un garçon, il aime le football
- il aime le football car/, parce que c'est un garçon
Side note: you don't need a comma before a coordinating conjunction in simple sentences (this is valid for "et, ou, ni, or, mais, car, donc")
In school I was taught that "parce que" means "because" but my penpal in France (who didn't speak any English) always used "car". She and I have been penpals since 1973. She was 16 and I was 17 when we started writing. She only emails me once a year now, very seldom. The last time was for New Year's Day, a few days ago, in French, of course. In French, of course. I can understand French but am not so good at expressing myself in French. I used to be able to write lots in French. I only ever used my French to write to her. Around here there are lots of French speaking people but it's not the same kind of French. They have a different accent, pronunciation and different words and I don't understand any of it. One time when I was in the post office, a red-headed postal worker was talking rapidly in French with a customer who was ahead of me. I didn't understand one word. Then he went away and she switched to English. It's a bilingual post office. The staff will speak English or French. Years ago, my dad told me that he went into the post office and said, "un timbre, s'il vous plait" and that was all he could say in French. Of course, they knew he didn't speak French so they probably spoke to him in English. Another time my dad told me that he said "Bonjour" to a Frenchman and the man started talking in French. My dad told me that he just said, "oui" every so often and the man kept on talking. My dad didn't understand a word he was saying but just kept on saying, "oui" every so often and the man kept on talking in French. He said after awhile the man walked away and looked happy.
I know that Duolingo sometimes uses bizarre, illogical sentences in order to teach grammatical structures, but I am unsure whether this sentence is as illogical as it instinctively feels.
It is, of course, illogical if "car" is a causitive meaning of "because"; he can be described as un garçon because he is jeune, rather than the converse. But it is not illogical if the "because" is meant in the sense of logical inference: "[we know that] he is young, because [we know that] he is a boy."
I am asking whether this is simply a somewhat random sentence, or whether the use of car in the logical reasoning sense of "because" is commoner in French?
@Daughter Of Albion. Hi mate. I'm never 100% on fine grammar but nobody seems to have responded to your really pertinent and useful query. I know just a few things: Car doesn't start a sentence. (Bear with me, I'm sure I'll say things that you know anyroad.) Parce que introduces a cause, explanation, or motive.....why something is DONE. Car can mean Because as in the same way in English as For may be used. So in my small mind, the boy is not young because he Intended and Succeeded in being a Boy. He is young As/For/.because he is a boy (where Boy is literal not as used in "Boy Band".) Now, I'll stick my neck out now and I stand to be corrected here by the "Grammarians to the rescue" team. I think that Parce que is a Subordinating Conjunction and can start a sentence whilst Car is a Coordinating Conjunction and does not start a sentence.. Know what? I very nearly understand that. :)
Thank you JJ. Both for recognising the spirit of my enquiry - I am not carping at Duolingo's teaching method, merely trying to learn how French is used - and for providing a useful and succinct summary of the difference between the two French words for "because".
Your instinct agrees with my interpretation of car being used in a logical, rather than causitive, sense here.
You have more experience than I, my friend. In the absence of any contribution from the native speakers, can you give me your impression about how frequently it is used in this sense?
"car" is essentially used in writing.
"parce que" often replaces it in spoken French because/for it is more versatile.
The reason why this sentence looks weird is that at this stage of the course, we don't have enough vocabulary to build neat sentences that both deliver a grammar notion and a reasonable meaning.
- il est jeune car is est né en 1996 = he is young because/for he was born in 1996
- il a pu entrer dans cette école car c'est un garçon brillant = he could enrol in this school because/for he is a bright boy
Thank you Sitesurf, for answering both aspects of my question. You have corrected my understanding of the relative formality of the two possible translations of "because", and confirmed my impression that their use in the sense of deductive logic (rather than that implying causation, which is commoner in English) is a normal French usage.