Are ce/cela interchangeable/synonymous with each other.
I thought that ce means this/it and cela/Ça meant that, but duo lingo is saying that ce means both this and that and the same for cela when I hover over the word. So are they the same and is there a rule when to use them, I am just going over the demonstrative lessons now trying to get a better grasp because this is one area of my french that is lacking. Thanks in advance.
Ça, Ce, Cela, Ceci, all mean the same thing (that/this/it) but they are all used differently.
In short, Ce is the short form of Cela and Ceci. Cela literally means "that/this" while Ceci usually means only "this". Ce is used before nouns, you don't say "Ça vin", you would say, "Ce vin". Cela and Ceci are a bit more formal but not uncommon. They are this way because là means there and ci kind of means here. Janvier-ci (this january), c'est là-bas (it's over there), est-ce là? (Is it there?) Etc. etc.
Ce changes forms to please Liaison and Gender. Ce for masculine, Cette for feminine, Cet for masculine but starts with a vowel ("cet eau"). Ces is plural.
You also use the Ce family with the verb être = Ce + est = C'est. Ce + sont = Ce sont (I don't think Ce has to be plural here but it could be I guess).
Ça is only used as almost a pronoun with all other verbs. Except, there will be times when you see "Ça y est...". Weird, I know, I barely get it too. Ça va? ;-))
EDIT: "Cet eau" is incorrect. Eau is feminine and I thought it was masculine because eau as an affix is usually masculine. Sorry about that! Let's try instead: "Cet ami." :))
Also, Celui vs. Celle vs. Ceux vs. Celles are similar but different. Celui (ma.) vs Celle (fe.) both mean "that/this one" while Ceux (ma.) vs Celles (fe.) are just the plural forms: "those/these ones."
To make it more clear, I will re-introduce the là vs ci concept. Celui-ci/Celle-ci (this one here), Ceux-ci/Celles-ci (these ones here), Celui-là/Celle-là (that one there), Ceux-là/Celles-là (those ones there).
Et voilà! C'est tout pour maintenant, je suppose. :))
Thanks for you answer, where you say cela and ceci are a bit more formal I remember reading somewhere a little while ago that one you'd use in writing and the other you would only say or something along those lines, do you know of a rule similar to that?
Ah, I remember the rule about Ce + là. I always find it helps to learn the etymology of some words to better understand them, I did not know about ci meaning here but i can see it in ici now, thank you. It's strange but as soon as I saw Ça y est I understood it, I think it's from the lesson about y going in between some words because they wouldn't sound right otherwise or something, it's a bit confusing, thanks again.
Ce is the masculine, "ce garcon" and cette is the feminine, cette fille. You use cet when ce comes before a word starting with a Vowel, "cet animal" Cela means that and Ça is a contraction of cela (a shortened version of the same word) I am not sure about the masculine/feminine with cel so you may be right. Ces is the plural used for both masculine and feminine. Hope that explains it a little, sorry it's a bit messy and not formatted.
EDIT: some parts of this may be wrong, this is not my best department by far but it helps you get the general idea.