Maybe it can be understood as "These are difficult times" but we would definitely say "Ce sont des temps difficiles" as a version of it. I have never experienced somebody saying "Ce sont des minutes difficiles" and it does sound to me like she's literally talking about minutes... (as a native)
Rickjmill, me too. I used to instruct commercial and police drivers. It was a two-hour test and if they failed it would be to do with a mistake made right at the end of the test when they were so tired. If they passed, they were off to their first shift of work lasting up to thirteen hours! Again, "The Last Minutes", 99% of all Bumps they made were in the garage parking lot, parking up in the last minutes of their shift!
I think "ces," being a demonstrative adjective, can never be used without a noun it describes; "ces enfants" but never "*ces aiment." However, I think "ce," although also sometimes a demonstrative adjective, can also function as a (neuter?) pronoun that can be both singular and plural, kind of like "The fish is good" and "The fish are good" in English; it's simply one word with multiple meanings.
And with regards to languages being logical, I feel they are exceptionally well-designed considering they largely evolved naturally and thus don't even have designers; despite this, languages have patterns everywhere! Just my two-cents ;)
Hi Akshay. I've been waiting for a grammarian to explain this in terms that a dummy like myself may understand and maybe give some other sites pertinent to your query. All I've located is a post from our dear Sitesurf: No, not right. From the very precious Sitesurf I found this. It is high-brow grammar and I struggle with it but here is our answer: "Ce" has no plural. It is a pronoun. "Ces" is a demonstrative adjective to agree with the noun it modifies. We will need to seriously brush up on our grammar, both English and especially French and that one is a whole term's work, at least it is for me. Sorry it took so long to respond but I just didn't know the answer which bothered me because I've done all this (again!)s but forgotten it!. Look, this is all so "deep" grammar and I've bought myself "French grammar for Dummies" and "Gwynne's Grammar" (for English) in my attempt to bring my grasp of grammar up to purpose. Bonne chance mon ami! JJ.
It can also mean "those are" and "they are". See http://french.stackexchange.com/questions/6226/when-to-use-ils-sont-ces-sont-or-ce-sont.
Someone asked why "they" cannot be used in the exercise
- "These are not words." = "Ce ne sont pas des mots."
Sitesurf responded that: "this/that/these/those" have to be translated with a demonstrative adjective or pronoun.
"C'est" and "Il est" are impersonal expressions used to describe and introduce people and things. There are rules when each is used:
"C'est" changes to "ce sont" when followed by a plural noun. "Ce" does not change to "ces" (not: ces sont). You use "ces" only when it is followed by a plural noun.