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  5. "Ce sont des garçons."

"Ce sont des garçons."

Translation:They are boys.

December 22, 2012

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In this lesson, you have to learn this specific way of starting a sentence in French: "c'est" (singular) or "ce sont". It is not usual to say "ils sont des garçons" (sounds like a translation!)

A great page here: click here


Really? I learned for three or four years of French to say "ils sont" and never came across "ce sont," even in literature. This is new to me; were my lessons outdated, perhaps?

  • 1853

"Ils sont des garçons" is not correct French.

Good examples on use to use "c'est" vs "il est" (singular) / "ce sont" vs "ils sont" (plural) can be found here:



This link just blew my mind. Thank you!


Thanks for that - so I understand it's because it's a "modified" noun (because of the "des" - is that right? Like the example "C'est un avocat." (He is a lawyer) compared with "Il est avocat". I don't think one ever says "Ils sont garcons" (or maybe that's "They are waiters"?).

  • 1853

Right: "avocat" is a noun (like "garçon"), but its meaning is an occupation (contrary to the most common sense of "garçon" which is "boy").


It is not the "Ils sont" that makes it incorrect, it is the "Ils sont des" you can use Ils sont, such as:

  • Ce sont des hommes grands, ils sont forts.
  • Ce sont mes fleurs, elles sont très jolies.
  • Ce sont les petits pains, ils sont bons.


Why not "Ils sont des garcons" correct? "Ils" also means "they" also, doesn't it?


Please note: "Correctness rests upon usage."

French usage is to use "c'est" (singular) or "ce sont" (plural) for the following English expressions:

  • he is + noun - he is a boy = c'est un garçon
  • she is + noun - she is a girl = c'est une fille
  • they are + noun - they are children = ce sont des enfants.


i love this! I am learning so much


So when is "ils" used?


In all other cases when "they" replace plural masculine nouns.


@jordan_unicorn Translating one language into another doesn't work like that. In the real-world translation exercises you can hover the mouse over each word and there are lots of meanings of each. You can't choose any of those meanings, string them together and argue that it is "not grammatically incorrect". Similarly, in choosing the French translations, you can't choose any French word that's in the dictionary alongside the English words. Unfortunately, it's harder in that direction, because we don't know what sounds right, so we have to learn from experience and others who do know (not that I do in this case, I'm just learning too). You know it's not right to say "My wife has just had a bouncing baby waiter", and realise it should be "boy". You know there's something wrong with "The train has come off the path of iron". So, sometimes it's right to say "Ce sont" and not "Ils sont".


i'm still very confused on when to you "c'est" or when to use "il/elle est." i've tried going to other sites, too, but it's still unclear. i must be really dense !



You are not dense to confused by this issue. The rules concerning their use are not simple.

Follow this link (http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa032500.htm) to see what they are. You might note that there are several pages of rules involved.


I made the mistake of translating this as " they are the boys' " (as in "those things belong to that group of boys"). I understand that this is wrong, but I am not entirely sure why.

How DO you say "they are the boys' "?

As in, "Don't take those toys, they are the boys' and the boys are very possessive!"

I would like to see it so I can compare what I did with what I was supposed to do ("they are boys").

  • 1853

"They are the boys'" translates to "Ce sont ceux des garçons" (for masculine nouns, ex: if you are talking about "toys" = "jouets") or "Ce sont celles des garçons" (for feminine nouns, ex: "shoes" = "chaussures").


Merci beaucoup, Remy!


Just another link that might help some people: http://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/pro3.html


Why "des" and not "les"? sounds really similar, how to tell one from another?? Thanks


practice, practice, practice... if you try to enunciate them clearly for yourself, you will end up hearing the difference between "les" and "des"


I couldn't hear the plural at all. How to tell?


Simply because the singular form of this sentence is "c'est un garçon", you cannot confuse "c'est un" with "ce sont des".


could you not use ils sont instead of ce sont? they both mean the same thing right?


This will help native English speakers on grammatical versus correct.

It is grammatically correct to substitute sire for father because sire means father in English. But you very seldom use sire in English conversation because it has acquired additional meanings related to ancestry, royalty and recognized importance of the person referred to.

If you were in a position to correct a French speaker's use of English and you heard him using sire every time when he was actually referring to father you would advise him that he was using the word sire inappropriately. Think about what you would say if he said "but it's grammatically correct so I want to keep using it".

Your response to that situation is what Duo is trying to say to you.

It is not correct to use ce sont and ils sont interchangeably even if they have the same literal meaning any more than it would be to say "my sire is going to be late for dinner". Unless you are a Prince of the Realm or something.


Even with the about link. It is still very confusing. I think I will have to refer to a teacher on this one.


Don't try to absorb all the rules on the about link at once. Just start with the first few examples until you get them straight, then take on a few more. Most of Duo's examples, which are pretty simple, are covered by the article, adjective, noun rules.


"ce sont tes garçons" is correct?

  • 1853

No, because "tes" is a possessive adjective, and your sentence would translate to "They are YOUR boys".


Could this also translate as "It is boys"? As, say, an answer to the question, "What's that sound?" or would that be a singular subject (C'est?)?

  • 1853

No, you cannot say "It is boys", you have to say "These are boys".

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