Bien vs bon(ne)

I've run across a couple of sentences in the 'adjectives 2' lesson that are making me question when to use "bon" and when to use "bien". I had understood that the difference is essentially the same as "good" vs "well", i.e., adjective vs adverb. But I've gotten some sentences that are making me wonder if there's more to it. (unfortunately my current browser is preventing me from accessing the discussion pages for those sentences from the lesson).

"C'est bien" is given instead of "C'est bon" and "Sa lettre est bien". instead of "Sa lettre est bon"

Wouldn't this latter mean essentially that the letter is doing a good job of existing, rather than that the letter is good? In the same lesson, I got the example, "Ses livres sont bons" and I don't see a difference between this construction and "Sa letter est bien" that would explain why one is bien and one is bon.

Any suggestions? Are these maybe idiomatic expressions that are more naturally used even if not technically grammatical? (like saying "it's me" instead of "it's I".)

April 12, 2018


Bon and Bien both mean almost the same thing but they are a bit different.

Bon- Bon is mostly used as an adjective(sometimes a noun) and means good, correct, suitable, etc. Bon does not follow any form of être

Bien- Bien is mostly used as an adverb but it can also be used as a adjective(or noun but that's not important). The only way bien can be used as an adjective is when followed by être, otherwise it is unacceptable.

So in short you cannot say C'est bon due to the verb être. If you want to modify a noun using être, you must use bien

April 12, 2018

So, this is not correct.

For example, "C'est bien" and "C'est bon" are both correct sentences, they're just used in different situations. In my experience, you will say "C'est bien" whenever you have a clear antecedent (in other words, when there's a particular thing or person you are describing). You will use "C'est bon" when you are referring to a situation, either to say something feels good, or else idiomatically to say you've had enough of something (like in English, "I'm good.").

Also, when I think of using 'bien' as an adjective, the first meaning I think of is to say something or someone is good, as in it/they do good things. 'Bien' as adjective is the opposite of 'mal'.

As for "une lettre bien" as opposed to "une bonne lettre"... I should think that the distinction between the two is very subtle. It is worth asking about it on that question's discussion page to see what Duo is thinking. It could simply be that your "bon" was marked wrong because of gender agreement only and not because "bien" would be a better option.

One other thing, try to avoid using 'bon' to describe a person. It will be misinterpreted as a sexual comment.

April 13, 2018

Thank you jkidder! That's really helpful. Would you be able to give an example of a context when you might say "C'est bien?"

April 14, 2018

Hmm, rereading what I wrote about "c'est bon" vs "c'est bien", I'm not sure I got it totally right, or at least there may be a more useful way to put it.

Searching the internet, I found this approach instead, which makes sense to me (note that my first language is English not French): If your physical senses tell you it's pleasurable, "c'est bon". If your brain believes it's praiseworthy, "c'est bien".

As for examples, how about some lyrics? I found a rap song from a few years ago by la Fouine called "C'est bien de". Here's the first few lines:

C'est bien d'avoir du talent, mais est-ce que quelqu'un l'expose ?
C'est bien d'avoir le bras long, mais est-ce que tu touches à quelque chose ?
C'est bien d'monter, mais est-ce que t'aides les gens d'en bas ?
C'est bien d'être solidaire, mais est-ce que t'envoies des mandats ?

And of course the old standard "C'est si bon", lyrics by André Hornez:

C'est si bon
De partir n'importe ou,
Bras dessus, bras dessous,
En chantant des chansons.
C'est si bon
De se dir' des mots doux,
Des petits rien du tout
Mais qui en disent long.

April 14, 2018

Thank you C0ral!

April 14, 2018
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