If the "help" gave all the correct conjugations and meanings how would we learn anything? Only with some constructions will the "help" give a full conjugation. In most cases it gives the definitions of the word. In this case "ce qu'il fait" is "what he does" (probably determined by context over "...what it does"), not "what it is".
I agree that the help doesn't give the correct solutions always. And I understood the mistake I've done. Still, just "this is what it is" sounds much cooler :) But now you confused me, Why you think it is not "this is what it does", because I believe; the sentence you proposed "ce qu'il le fait" ="this is what he/it does to him/it"
"It may happen that some idiomatic expressions use "be" in English and "faire" in French, but that is just coincidence"
That's essentially my question, though. How are we to know this isn't one of those coincidences, especially when the only drop-down verbal translation given by Duo was "is"? That's why I'm saying it's something to report. "Do/make" should be shown or else one might think this is a case like "Il fait froid."
I don't know who keeps marking down your question/comment but I think the point is that DL is an aid, whereas these comment boards are great for clarification. There is a report function in the exercise and to the left of the page to flag an issue if you wish. The reason you may not find much sympathy is that most at this stage accept "faire" is "make/do" so wouldn't use the mouseover help, unless its an idiomatic expression. Just wait until you reach such idiomatic gems as "You snooze you lose" and "early bird catches the worm". Then you'll have some real issues with Duolingo ;-)
I understood that "fait" means "does", but the pop up says "is" as its first translation, so I translated as "That's what he is.", and, of course, got it wrong. I'm really tired of duolingo giving bad information. Is there any circumstance where "fait" means "is"? If not, why do they offer this as an acceptable translation? I've always known "faire" as "to do".
I cannot think of an example where does would be is, but anyway, you have to keep in mind that the information suggested by Duo when you hover on words is just a glossary of a range of possible meanings, depending on context, construction, etc.
Therefore, you do not directly get the correct answer to the sentence you are working on.
I don't know about your native language but I advise you to back translate what you write before punching "enter", so that you can check it makes sense.
"that's what he is" = c'est ce qu'il est
I am really struggling with this same concept. Can you expand your explanation above as I am having a really hard time understanding it. In part because I guess I don't understand what you mean by object vrs subject. Isn't the subject and object of a sentence the same thing? I really don't see any difference in the two example sentences provided. I think it's back to my issue of trying to learn a language based on "rules" when I don't know my native tongue of English in that manner at all. I wouldn't have a clue if something was an object or a subject I guess even in English :(
Basically you have to remember that "se" is a personal pronoun and reflexive and that "ce" is a demonstrative pronoun.
The reflexive pronoun "se" corresponds to "himself, herself, oneself, themselves", even though you would not always use any of those in your translation: "il se lave" = he washes (himself).
The demonstrative "ce" shows something, like "this" or "that", as in "c'est beau" = this/that is beautiful.
When "ce" is followed by "qui" or "que", it means "the thing that/which" and the translation is "what", as in "ce qu'il fait est beau" = what he does is beautiful.
The key is understanding/recognizing indefinite relative pronouns in French (http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/indefiniterelativepronouns.htm). Once you do, this becomes quite literal, in a sense.
This didn't help me that much either. The beginning of this video did help a bit but I think my roadblock was really when she mentioned having to know the noun starting at about 2:12 I know I don't understand how to classify that noun and I think that is why I am getting stuck a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzHvkuB46Xo
How can we tell when 'fait' means make or do. I answered in Duolingo that "C'est ce qu'il fait" meant 'this is what he makes', and they said wrong, means 'this is what he does'. It means the same thing to me. If you are talking to someone in the street, it wouldn't be wrong either.