When to use C'est VS when to use Il est/elle est. What about when using parce que?

-So the sentence: He is a tall boy.

Would be: C'est un grand garçon, -And it wouldn't be: Il est un grand garçon, (Right?)

....And this sentence: He is tall.

-Would be: Il est grand. -And wouldn't be: C'est grand. (... I think?)

Because the rule is: when there is a noun, use c'est. But when there isn't a noun, you use elle/il. Right? I'm not 100% clear on this rule of when to use C'est vs Elle/il est. From what I read about the rule I think this is how it goes?

My question is, in the use of "parce que", does this rule still apply?

-The sentence: Because he is a tall boy.

Would it be: Parce qu'il est un grand garçon.

Or would it be..?: Parce que c'est un grand garçon.

-Or this sentence: Because he is tall.

Would it be: Parce qu'il est grand.

or would it be..? (probably not I assume): Parce que c'est grand.

Would love to know if you know about the c'est vs il/elle est rule when used here! I hope I'm even understanding this rule correctly at all.

October 18, 2018


You ask good questions. I hadn't thought much about it before but "parce qu'il est un grand garçon" sounds more natural to me.

Il est grand is normal because it's just "he is tall" (literally)

c'est un grand garçon is nomral because it's just "this is a tall boy" (even though we translate it as "he" is a tall boy because we bristle at applying the word "this" to people.)

The other thing isn't an independent clause, so it can't really be a complete sentence (...because he is a tall boy) and the only reason it would come up is because it explains something about the boy we were already discussing. (For example, he eats a great deal of food because he is a tall boy) So, we don't need "this" because everyone already knows who we are talking about, and we can just say "because he is a tall boy" (parce qu'il est un grand garçon)

October 19, 2018

Thank you! Your explanation is very easy to follow. I agree using a pronoun in this way seems more natural.

October 19, 2018

Unfortunately, French is a bit more complex than that: in modern French you must use c'est/ce sont instead of il/elle est and ils/elles sont when the predicate (i.e. whatever follows the verb) is a noun (as opposed to an adjective or an adverb): note also that in spoken French ce sont is always replaced by c'est, meaning c'est became a generalised 'undefinite' form of être that works for all genders and numbers.

"parce que c'est un grand garçon" is how we would phrase it; "parce qu'il est un grand garçon" is technically correct but sounds very old-fashioned, however "parce qu'il est grand" is fine.

You may only use il/elle est and ils/elles sont when the noun has already been introduced earlier in the conversation and the predicate is not a noun (note that professions without an article don't count, because they behave like adjectives in this context: so "il est architecte" is fine, but "il est un architecte" isn't, you must say "c'est un architecte"), in all other cases you use c'est (and 'ce sont' in written French if the subject is plural, but not in informal spoken French).

October 19, 2018

Great question!

October 18, 2018

Never use an article with il est, so, il est un is incorrect, you must use c'est un, always. with parce que, il est grand is ok. The correct phrase is C'est un homme, parce que il est grand.

October 19, 2018

Simple! Thank you so much!

October 19, 2018

"il est un" can be found in old litterature and poetry as a synonym of "il y a un": as an example in the popular French nursery rhyme "il était un petit navire", as well as the phrase "il était une fois..." which is equivalent to the English "once upon a time..."

October 19, 2018

See "" for example. There are many, many such pages on the web.

October 18, 2018

I actually learned the rule from that exact page you linked. However: my question isn't answered on that page. It doesn't explain about if usage of "parce que" as an exception or not. Also, I have already previously googled "Parce que c'est" and it isn't a sentence structure commonly used at all (a couple different sentences I tried yielded 10-50 results, in fact, most results use "Parce que, c'est". This leads me to believe that the rule isn't applied when parce que is involved.). So I wonder if it is grammatically correct or if Parce que(pronoun) is okay even if the noun follows. I'm hoping someone can explain if the rule applies here because I cannot find the answer.

October 18, 2018

I'm far from proficient, but my understanding is that, if what you are doing is identifying something or someone, use "c'est"; if you are commenting on something already known to both speaker and listener use "elle/il est".

October 19, 2018

Lots of good responses but I think I can add a little bit to the conversation. Using "C'est" provides a label to something. I'm sure you are aware it's the contraction for << Ça est ...>> or literally "That is ...". That is a tall boy. That is a statue. That is a horse. I love the quote, "English is French spoken poorly.", because English is so strongly influenced by French that literal meanings are (I suspect) more useful than between other languages. (Yes, yes. And we shouldn't translate that way. I think it's still a useful learning aid.)

With << il >> or << elle >> you really need the context of the subject (subject pronouns) having already been defined. << Parce qu'elle portait trop de poids, la table s'est cassée. >> Here the subject has been introduced (even though flipped around in the sentence) so the pronoun is just replacing the mentioned subject. For your example sentence we have to suppose that << il >> was already mentioned.

I wonder if this could work though? << Pourquoi tu ne lui demandes pas de bonnes directions ? Je ne peux pas lui demander parce que c'est une statue ! >>

October 19, 2018

It gets quite complicated! See

However I tend to suggest a simple rule which works 99% of the time - C'est +noun or pronoun (C'est le pain, c'est moi) otherwise il/elle est (elle est grande, il est dans sa chaise)

October 19, 2018

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October 19, 2018
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