I'm trying to get my head around when to use ce, cette and ces. I thought I had it down; ce is for masculine, cette for feminine and ces for plural. But then I got to this section and came across the phrase: "Ce sont les dernières chaussures !" ("These are the latest shoes!") Which seems to violate the above rule.. Am I missing something obvious?
I've been reading in my new humungous French grammar book (squeee!) and there are two different issues here. Ce/cet/cette/ces are demonstrative adjectives that modify nouns (cette chatte). Ce/cela/ça are neuter demonstrative pronouns which replace other nouns to avoid repetition. (Celui is masculine form, celle is feminine.) Ce is used with the verb être, as in the conjunction c'est (ce + est) and ce sont mentioned in the question. Ce is also used in other cases, such as impersonal expressions and to refer to something previously mentioned, e.g. "La tarte de pommes, c'est mon dessert préféré." Cela/ça (ça is colloquial) is used as a neuter pronoun with verbs other than être. You already know how to use it: Comment ça va? :)
Thanks for the question, it was fun finding this out!
"Ce sont...", taken together as a phrase, means "These are..." If you were to say, for example, "These are my shoes," the translation would be, "Ce sont mes chaussures." This only applies, though, if you're using the full phrase. If you wanted to say "these shoes" it would be "ces chausures."
ces = these --> masculine or feminine plural ces fleurs, ces livres, ces hommes, ces femmes
cet before a masculine, singular, starts with "a" "e" "i" "o" "u" "h" cet hôtel, cet homme otherwise use "ce" for masculine singular words ce cahier, ce restaurant
cette before a feminine, singular word cette femme, cette télévision, cette bouteille
I actually believe the right answer should be "Ces sont les dernières chaussures !" to be honest. "Ces" is definitely for plural ("these").
Edit: another question has this issue as well; Ce sont des jupes. My guess is largely because of pronouncing it "Ces sont" versus "Ce sont" with a repeating "s". Just like "Ce est" is "C'est" because of the vowel.