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il/elle/ce/ca when talking about concepts?

hi all!

i am noticing now that i am some way into duo's tree, and from exposure to french elsewhere, that sometimes "c'est" is substituted for "il est", or even "elle est". for example, "il faut qu'on parle" and "il dure combien de temps?"...

i knew that "il pleut" was a thing, and assumed "il" could be used for the weather even though it meant "he" (a dummy subject, right?). but now with all these other uses i am becoming confused on when to use which.

thanks in advance!

March 2, 2018



ahhhh - what a GREAT question.

The grammar terms you are talking about are :

Demonstrative pronouns


Informal pronouns

A pronoun is : a word that can function as a noun phrase used by itself and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g. I, you ) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g. she, it, this ). It is worth checking out : grammar.yourdictionary

Demonstratives show where an object, event, or person is in relation to the speaker. They can refer to a physical or a psychological closeness or distance. When talking about events, the near demonstratives are often used to refer to the present while the far demonstratives often refer to the past.

Informal and formal pronouns is a concept you will find in many other European languages, and is not really used in modern English. So it is a concept that English speakers generally need to learn about.

To quote Thomas Wier:

Typologically, politeness distinctions in second-person pronouns are by no means universal across languages, with perhaps only a third of the world’s languages using them in some fashion:

Check out this great discussion here


So, for English speakers, this is quite an in depth topic, as les pronoms ( pronouns ) are used differently to the way it is used in English.

For resources produced in Duolingo.

Tips and notes in Duolingo :
- Demonstrative : ce/cet, ces, cette, ça
- Demonstrative : ceci, cela, celui, ceux, celle, celles
- Demonstrative: celui, ceux, celle, celles
- Pronouns: including on, en, y
- Pronouns: including indirect objects

Then you get into Impersonal Expressions.
I strongly recommend reading : Il est or C'est? Also while there check out some of the other "Related discussion" that appear on the right of the discussion.

For il peut I recommend reading about this saying that I also find common in the rural part of France I spend a lot of time in. Il pleut comme vache qui pisse.
Also [pleut (verb)]http://www.duolingo.com/dictionary/French/pleut-pleuvoir-verb-present+indicative+tense-third+person-singular/5ae168f0283a01c96bcd0dcef777634f)

For resources outside of Duolingo:

There is a great article about this in ThoughtCo.

Also Laura Lawless :
- indefinite demonstrative pronouns
- impersonal pronouns
- impersonal expressions


I get confused about those as well. Like, Il y a du vent or Il fait du soleil. I can't help you myself, but there are certain websites that can help you with that. Look up demonstrative pronouns in french and you will hopefully find something helpful.


This is too confusing for me too


And breath.
How can we break it down ?

What do you think is confusing you ?

Can you elaborate more, on what you find is confusing ?

I hope I will hear from you - for your questions and answers will also assist others.

And I would love to be able to assist you. Or perhaps someone else might be able to hop in and assist.
I just need more information.

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