"C'est" vs "Il est" (singular) & "Ce sont" vs "Ils sont" (plural)
You have to use "c'est" when there is an article (une, un, le, la, or l'), a possessive (mon/ton/son, ma/ta/sa, notre/votre/leur) before the noun, or before a possessive pronoun (le nôtre/le vôtre/le leur/la nôtre/la vôtre/la leur).
- Ex: You have to say "C'est mon garçon. C'est le mien", NOT: "Il est mon garçon. Il est le mien."
- Note: you can use "Il est" before an adjective (ex: "Il est riche." = "He is rich."), before a noun of occupation with no article (ex: "Il est avocat." = "He is a lawyer."), or before an adverb (ex: "Il est tard." = "It is late.").
- The same rules apply for the feminine singular pronoun "elle" (except for the adverb case).
You have to use "ce sont" when there is an article (des or les), a possessive (mes/tes/ses, nos/vos/leurs) before the noun, or before a possessive pronoun (les nôtres/les vôtres/les leurs).
- ex: You have to say "Ce sont nos garçons. Ce sont les nôtres", NOT: "Ils sont nos garçons. Ils sont les nôtres."
- Note: you can use "Ils sont" before an adjective (ex: "Ils sont riches." = "They are rich."), or before a noun of occupation with no article (ex: "Ils sont avocats." = "They are lawyers.").
- The same rules apply for the feminine plural pronoun "elles".
Same basic info but sites you can bookmark for easy reference:
http://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/cest-versus-il-elle-est (I printed the 1 page PDF)
Just to be clear, we can substitute "c'est avocat" → "il est avocat"?
Also I think that the section of the course that needs most attention is probably the part dealing with prepositions. The one's I've seen seen the most are arguments over :
- À, au;
- aux vs en;
- dans vs sur
- en vs dans vs sur; and
- pour vs par vs à.
To name a few.
I thought as much, but a Google search uncovered 3 million instances of a direct quote "c'est avocat", and 23 million instances of "c'est professeur". So a lot of L1/L2 speakers must make this mistake.
Good to know!
I really don't see in which context one would say "c'est avocat". I also did the Google search and most instances were mistakes from "ces avocats", not "c'est un avocat".
Just a thought... might it be that many of those instances of « c'est professeur » are cases where "professeur" is used as a title, to be immediately followed by the professor's name?
No, you can't say "C'est professeur Dubois". You should say: "C'est le professeur Dubois".
Actually, you don't discuss proper names, but the new section to learn the difference between "c'est" and "il est"/"elle est" seems to put proper names after "c'est". Could you add examples to the top and people would really like an example of that in the Tips and Notes for that section. They have, for example, in the lesson "C'est Bruno." which they accept "He is Bruno." for it but not "It's Bruno." or "That's Bruno." So perhaps, "C'est Remy." or "C'est Aline." Names are handled so differently in English, for instance, we would capitalize "Professor Dubois" and it would become part of his name.
I was following this advice as a guide when I was doing an exercise in the English from French tree. I was asked to translate "They are a couple" and, because of the indefinite article, I wrote "Ce sont un couple" and it was wrong - I should have written "Ils sont un couple". Does this follow that the rule for "C'est" (ie when there is an article such as un, une, la, le, l') doesn't appy to "Ce sont"? And what about the plural "les"? Does one say "Ce sont les étudiants" or "Ils sont les étudinats".
Merci pour ton aide
I think it's ils sont en couple
en couple means in a relationship
as en is not a determiner (its a preposition or pronoun) then it cannot be ce sont
as for your other question, it is ce sont les étudiants - they are the students
you also have
ce sont des étudiants / ils sont étudiants - they are students
As an aside: Here is a situation where something applies to c'est but not to ce sont
The general rules for using c'est and ce sont are:
c'est + determiner + noun phrase
ce sont + determiner + noun phrase
There are exceptions. For example: to make a comment about something or convey a general idea you can use the construction
c’est + adjective masculine singular
but you cannot use ce sont + adjective
le français c'est fantastique - French is fantastic
j'étudie le français, c'est intéressant - I am studying French, it is interesting
c'est incroyable - it is incredible
Merci de ta réponse. I forgot that I had asked this but the information is useful all the same.
"The same rules apply for the feminine singular pronoun "elle" (except for the adverb case)." - what do you mean by "except for the adverb case"?
Merci Remy! I was always having trouble between those two...or four :P
I wrote a short article on it if it helps: http://spanishplus.tripod.com/french/ConfusingDifferences.htm#CestIlest
What about when you are presenting or pointing out someone? Can you say "Il est Pierre." Or do you have to say "C'est Pierre." Just got done with a lesson and I always thought when using "c'est", it basically was "This is or that is." So when you want to say "He is Pierre," wouldn't both work? (i.e. "Il est Pierre" and "C'est Pierre")
No, proper names come after “c’est...” and it can be translated as “ He is Pierre.” https://www.thoughtco.com/french-expressions-cest-vs-il-est-4083779
You can also say “Here is...” and “There is...” with « Voici... » and « Voilà... ». https://www.thoughtco.com/voila-vocabulary-1371436