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Cela, ce, ca, cette, c'est

Can somebody please clarify when is the best time to use the various forms of the French words for This and that? Sometimes I get it right but it's often just luck.

January 22, 2013



All these words are demonstrative, ie something you point to.

Ce, cet, cette, ces are demonstrative adjectives, to be used in front of a noun:

  • ce fruit (masculine, sincular), cet ananas (= ce + addition of "t" as a liaison in front of a word starting with a vowel), cette orange (feminine, singular), ces fruits / ces oranges (masculine or feminine, plural).

Ceci, cela, ça are demonstrative pronouns, to be used alone:

  • ceci est à moi (this is mine) = cela est à moi (that is mine)
  • ça va ? (are you OK?) = ça is a familiar, oral contraction of "cela".

C'est (plural: ce sont) + inanimated object = that/this is: - c'est mon crayon = this/that is my pen OR it is my pen - ce sont des pommes = these/those are apples

C'est + human being in all forms, including names and pronouns: - c'est une femme = she is a woman - ce sont mes cousins = these/those are my cousins OR (better) they are my cousins - c'est un policier = this/that is a policeman OR (better) he is a policeman On this specific issue, please re. http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa032500.htm

At last, two other words for you:

Voici/voilà (meaning "see here or see there) = here is or here are: - voici/voilà mon fils/ma fille = here is my son/my daughter.


http://duolingo.com/#/comment/186113 please, can you comment on this? thank you. :)


I think you still have questions about "c'est ce dont nous avons parlé", in particular the use of "ce" without a noun afterwards.

  • ce que = what: j'aime ce que je vois = I like what I see
  • ce qui = what: je sais ce qui me manque = I know what I miss
  • ce dont = of/about what/which: tu sais ce dont je parle = you know what I am talking about
  • ce à quoi = to what/which: tu sais à quoi je me réfère = you know what I am referring to

In the above examples, ce is accompanied by a relative pronoun (que/qui/dont/quoi) and stands roughly for "the thing": I like the thing that I see; I know the thing that I miss; you know the thing that I am talking about, etc. "ce" is used as an antecedent of the relative clause (starting with qui/que/dont/quoi).

The form of the relative pronoun itself depends on the construction of the verb and of its function: subject (qui), direct object (que) or indirect object :

  • "dont" is used with verbs using preposition "de"
  • "quoi" is used with verbs using any other preposition

For further explanations: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/indefiniterelativepronouns.htm


shouldn't "ceci est à moi" be "c'est le mien" or "ceci est le mien"? Also In earlier exercise translation of "That is great" was "c'est super" why isn't "cela est super" correct?


"ceci est à moi", "c'est à moi" and "c'est le mien (la mienne...)" are all correct to express that what you are showing belongs to you.

This/that is great = c'est super

Il est super = he is great (man) or c'est super (thing, situation)

It is great = il/elle (a real thing) est super.

"Cela est super" is not often used because of the hiatus between "celA" and "Est". In conversations, please use 'ça, c'est super".


This is great stuff - thanks - you make learning easier


or was it "il est super"


Is "Ce n'est pas intéressant." a good translation of "It isn't interesting", as used here - https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29019747 ?

Since there is no noun in this sentence, shouldn't we use ceci or ça here based on your first rule?


"Ce" is a pronoun in "c'est, ce sont, ce n'est pas, ce ne sont pas...", just like "ceci, cela/ça".


Thanks for your response. I still don't understand the proper usage of these words, but I will do more research and practice.


Everything you need to know is on this page though. Reread it until you have digested the explanation.


Thank you so much. You are an angel!


What's the difference between "cela" and "ça"? Is the former never used any more in spoken language?

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