hello i am so confused with it/this/that words

hi im literally so confused with ANY word that means "it" basically. like ce/ça/il(or elle)/lui/cela/ceci/celui/cette or honestly any other word related. they are so confusing i dont know when to use any of them:(

July 13, 2016


Is your native language English? If so, the problem probably stems from the fact that French does not have a word that actually means "it" (at least not really- certain French words are translated as "it" in English but they are not literally the same).

Anyway, the French words "ce" and "cette" are used to mean "this/that" (masculine and feminine respectively), and also "cet" is used for masculine nouns that begin with a vowel (or with mute 'h' plus a vowel). The word "ces," meaning "these/those," is used for plurals, regardless of gender. Examples: (1) ce chien= this/that dog (2) cette maison= this/that house (3) cet oiseau= this/that bird (note, "oiseau" is masculine but it starts with a vowel) (4) cet homme= this/that man (note, "homme" is masculine but it starts with mute 'h') (5) ces chiens/maisons/oiseaux/hommes= these/those dogs/houses/birds/men

To particularly specify "this/these (here)" and "that/those (there)," one can add '-ci' and '-là' respectively after the noun in addition to the words above (note, however, that the distinction between "this/these" and "that/those" is not emphasized as much in French as in English, so this usage is not very common- usually only used when you wish to make a particular contrast). Examples: (6) ce chien-ci= this dog (7) cette maison-là= that house (8) ces oiseaux-ci= these birds

*Note that all the words above (ce, cette, cet, ces) are adjectives- they are used with a noun after them.

The words "celui/celle" and "ceux/celles" are related to the ones above, but they are pronouns- they stand alone in a phrase to replace the noun in question- they mean "the/this/that one" and "the/these/those ones." Likewise, one can add '-ci' or '-là' to these words as well. Examples: (9) "Aimes-tu ce chien-ci ou ce chien-là?"= Do you like this dog or that dog? (10) "J'aime bien celui-ci mais je préfère celui-là."= I like this one alright but I prefer that one.

*Notice that in sentence (10) "celui" is used because it refers back to and replaces "chien" in the previous sentence. Similarly:

(11) "Regardez-vous cette maison-ci?"= Are you looking at this house? (12) "Non, je regarde celle-là."= No, I am looking at that one. (13) "Ne penses-tu pas que ces oiseaux sont beaux?"= Don't you think these birds are beautiful? (14) "Si, mais ceux-là sont incroyables."= I do, but those there are amazing. (15) "As-tu vu les chaussures que portait Hélène?"= Did you see the shoes Helen was wearing? (16) Oui, je les ai vues, mais celles d'Anne étaient beaucoup plus élégantes."= Yes, I saw them, but Anne's (lit. "the ones of Anne") were much fancier.

"Ceci" and "cela" are also related. These are also pronouns, but they have no gender or number- they simply mean "this" and "that" respectively and they refer either to a new noun that one is introducing (and therefore the noun's gender is unknown or not emphasized) or to a whole idea rather than a specific noun. The word "ça" is simply an abbreviated version of "cela." Examples:

(17) Ceci est une théière.= This is a teapot. (showing it to someone) (18) Ceci est un désastre.= This (the whole situation) is a disaster. (19) Cela dit, on y va.= That being said (all that was spoken), we are going. (20) Je n'avais jamais entendu ça jusqu'à présent.= I had never heard that before now.

The word "il" is also a pronoun, but it is always the subject of the phrase it appears in. It usually means "he" but can be translated as "it" when used as a placeholder- i.e. in phrases where English uses a "dummy pronoun." For example:

(21) Il pleut.= It is raining. (Note the "il" in French and the "it" in English are really just placeholders- "rain" is a natural phenomenon that simply occurs and there is no actual "he" or "it") (22) Il est important que tu fasses tes devoirs.= It is important that you do your homework. (same Note as above)

Lastly, the most common words that are translated as "it" into English from French are the object pronouns "le" and "la." These literally mean "him" and "her" respectively (as mentioned above- French does not really have "it"- everything must be either masculine or feminine- even inanimate objects). Examples:

(23) "Vois-tu la vache?"= Do you see the cow? (24) "Oui, je la vois."= Yes, I see it. (lit. "Yes, I see her.") (25) "Voulez-vous ce livre?"= Do you want this/that book? (26) "Oui, donnez-le-moi s'il vous plaît."= Yes, give it to me please. (lit. "Yes, give him to me please.)

Hope that helps a bit. :)

July 13, 2016

Can't agree more RaleighStarbuck. It is slightly confusing for me too with ce and alll of that, so good explanation!

July 15, 2016

so what would be the difference between "Ceci/Cela est une théière" and "C'est une théière"? is one of them more correct than the other? and when would i use "celui/celle/ceux/celles" and when would i use "ceci/cela/ça"? these 2 groups of words seem to have exactly the same function to me:(

July 17, 2016

Actually, there is not a whole lot of difference between "C'est une théière" and "Ceci est une théière." The former phrase simply means "It's a teapot" (for example, you might ask a friend: "Tu sais ce qu'est un 'tetsubin'?" ("Do you know what a 'tetsubin' is?"); your friend replies: "Non, qu'est-ce que c'est?"; ("No, what is it/that?"); you answer: "C'est une théière japonaise" ("It's a Japanese teapot."). The latter phrase simply emphasizes that the 'théière' (teapot) is right in front of you and implies that the person you are showing it to may not know what the object is (obviously, most people are familiar with teapots, but say, for example, you are showing it to a young child who has never seen one before). Or, "Ceci est une théière" could also be used when you are showing various items one after the other- for example: "Ceci est un cendrier...ceci est une carafe à vin...ceci est une théière..." ("This is an ashtray...this is a decanter...this is a teapot..." I hope that clarifies things. As for when to use "celui/celle/ceux/celles," see the examples and explanations in my previous post.

P.S. I notice from the flag by your username that you are also learning Spanish- also being a Romance language, it's grammar is similar to French. The Spanish pronouns "esto" and "eso" are the equivalents of the French "ceci" and "cela/ça." e.g. "C'est une théière"= "Es una tetera"; "Ceci est une théière"= "Esto es una tetera."

July 18, 2016

thank you! i actually already know how to speak spanish haha the flag on my profile was from a loong time ago. but this did clear up the questions i had so thank you very much:D

July 18, 2016

J'en suis heureux. Me alegro. :)

July 18, 2016
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.