TNs, U16: Demonstratives 1 (Demonstrative Adjectives, Ça/Ça or Ce)
Demonstrative adjectives ("this", "that", "these", and "those") modify nouns so they refer to something or someone specific. They can be used in place of articles. Like other adjectives, they must agree with the nouns they modify.
The singular masculine ce becomes cet in front of a vowel sound for euphony.
- Ce livre est rouge. — That book is red.
- Cet arbre est grand. — That tree is big.
- Cette pomme est rouge. — That apple is red.
- Ces livres et ces pommes sont rouges. — Those books and those apples are red.
Ce can mean either "this" or "that". It's ambiguous between the two. To specify, use the suffix -ci ("here") or -là ("there") on the modified noun.
- Ce livre-ci est rouge. — This book is red.
- Ces chats-là sont noirs. — Those cats are black.
Typically, -ci and -là are added when comparing people or things or for a specific emphasis. However, these suffixes are required with some time notions to specify a present or past or even future date.
- Ces jours-ci — These days
- En ce temps-là — At that time
French learners often confuse the demonstrative adjective ce with the pronoun ce (from U05: Gallicism"). Discerning between them is easy, however: an adjective must modify a noun, while a pronoun can stand alone as a subject or object. Compare:
- Adjective: Ces hommes sont mes amis. — These men are my friends.
- Pronoun: Ce sont mes amis. — They are my friends.
In the first example, ces is an adjective that modifies hommes, but in the second, ce is a subject pronoun.
The indefinite demonstrative pronoun ça is the shortened informal version of cela, and it refers to an unnamed concept or thing. When it's used as an object, it usually translates to "this" or "that".
- Tu manges ça. — You are eating this.
- Je veux ça. — I want that.
Ça can also be used as a subject, in which case it can also mean "it".
- Ça sent bon. — It smells good.
- Ça semble simple. — This seems simple.
Ça or Ce?
A simple rule of thumb to follow is that ce should be used with être, including in the double-verb constructions pouvoir être and devoir être.
- C’est un très bon vin ! — This is a really good wine!
- Ce sont des garçons. — They are boys.
- Ce peut être triste en hiver. — It can be sad in winter.
- Ce doit être ton fils. — It must be your son.
Ça should be used with all other verbs.
- Ça va bien. — It's going well.
- Ça dure un jour. — That lasts a day.
- Ça m'intéresse beaucoup. — That interests me a lot.
However, when an object pronoun comes before être, then you must use ça, not ce. This is relatively rare.
- Ça m'est égal. — It's all the same to me.
Also, note that ça is informal and is usually replaced by cela ("that") or ceci ("this") in writing.
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