You may remember that some reflexive constructions actually express a passive notion.
"ça se peut" has "se pouvoir" meaning "can be" + done/heard/said/seen, etc. but without a verb.
"ça peut se faire/s'entendre/se dire/se voir, etc." means "that can be done/heard/said/seen"; it has the verb and therefore the reflexive moves to the verb.
"ce" is to be found only in front of "sont" and verb "pouvoir".
- ce sont mes ami(e)s = they are my friends
- ce peut être pire (very formal and rare) = that can be worse - but we would rather say "cela/ça peut être pire"
As you can see, "se" can be found (rarely) in front of "pouvoir" as well, but constructions would be different:
- cela se peut (fixed phrase) = that can be
- il se peut que je vienne dimanche = I might come on Sunday
"ça" is only the short, in-speech version of "cela". Note that French people tend to use little words in "a" more often than their "i" counterparts:
- ici < là (here - there)
- ceci < cela/ça (this - that)
- voici < voilà (here is - there is)
"I might" means "il se peut" and you could replace it by "je pourrais" (conditional of verb "pouvoir")
"je vienne" is in subjunctive that is used automatically with "il se peut que" and a few other verbal phrases.
So, "I might come" can translate to:
- il se peut que je vienne
- je pourrais venir
- je viendrai peut-être
In spoken Spanish people generally use "Se puede" instead of "Es posibile" and spoken Italian people generally use "Si può" instead of "È possibile" I would suspect that the same holds true for people using "Ça se peut" instead of "C'est possible" in spoken French.
Google trends indicates that "Ça se peut" and "C'est possible" are used with equal frequency on the Internet (which is effectively a mixture of spoken and written French) http://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=%C3%87a+se+peut%2CC%27est+possible#q=%C3%87a%20se%20peut%2C%20C%27est%20possiblecmpt=q
Google Ngram indicates that "C'est possible" is used far more frequently in written French than in spoken French: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=%C3%87a+se+peut%2CC%27est+possibleyear_start=1800year_end=2000corpus=19smoothing=3share=direct_url=t1%3B%2C%C3%87a%20se%20peut%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CC%27est%20possible%3B%2Cc0
In my experience of spoken Spanish (having grown up bilingual English/Spanish), "Sí se puede" by itself means "yes one can" (impersonal se), which is better translated as "yes you can".
"That is possible" is "(eso) es posible" (in Spanish pronouns are usually omitted and used mainly for emphasis) or " (eso) puede ser" -- literally, "it (that) can be".
Is there a similar idiom or impersonal construction in French using "peut" for "yes one can"?
Looking at the numerous comments about "ça se peut", I suggest to consider another French expression "peut-être" using the same verb, with the same exact meaning and which translates perfectly in English: "maybe" or "perhaps". So, to translate "ça se peut", I believe that Duo should accept the latter as well.
AHA! peut-être - that's the phrase I recall from high school French 50 years ago. Ça se peut is new to me, but then my 4 years of high-school French were very strict as far as colloquialisms went, and any relaxed form of the language was frowned upon. I don't recall the new phrase from any of the 19th century French novels I read, either. But that was 50 years ago.
Functionally the "se" in "se peut" and the "on" in "on peut" are roughly equivalent to the "one" in the English "one can". These constructions can be useful because they allow one to talk about an action without attributing it to any person or persons in particular. In English the "one" construction is only really used in very formal language, in French it is used far more widely.
The logic I see in it is that "se" is reflexive, so literally it means "That can [verb?] itself." or "That is able to [verb?] itself." The reason I put [verb?], is that there is a feeling that the verb pertaining to what can be done is absent, but the reflexive pronoun leads back to the subject of the sentence, so we're left with the sense that the thing that "can be done" (as you might say in English) is the subject of the sentence itself. That is to say, the subject itself is the thing possible, i.e. "That can be" or "That's possible".
This is an idiomatic expression using a fake reflexive that actually has a passive sense:
- ça se peut = lit. that can be = maybe
- ça se voit = lit. that can be seen = it shows
- ça se fait = lit. that can be done/made = it's done / it applies
- ça se dit = lit. that can be said = as we say / that is called / that means
- ça se mange = lit. that can be eaten = it is edible
- ça s'achète = lit. that can be bought = it is available / you can buy it
"ce" is a demonstrative pronoun or adjective.
- C'est mon chien (pronoun)
- Ce sont ses parents (pronoun)
- Ce chien est rapide (adjective)
"se" is a reflexive pronoun.
- Il/elle/on se lave = he/she/it washes (himself/herself/itself)
- Ils/elles se souviennent = they remember (themselves)
when i see se before a verb i automatically assume it is reflexive and so i'm really stuck on this. i can learn this exception, but i'm curious if any native speaking french out there can tell me if ca se (verb) is used like this in any other examples.
also, would the passe compose of this be c'est se peut? i've been living in france for almost 3 years and don't think i've ever heard this (but it's entirely possible i have and didn't know it).
ceci/cela/ça se + verb is extremely frequent in French and there are countless examples:
- ça se dit, ça se fait, ça se comprend, ça se voit, ça se sait, ça se peut, ça se mange, ça se boit...
This fake reflexive formula has actually a passive meaning, like "that is being said".
merci beaucoup, i think these small word combinations are the source of my ongoing nonexistent oral comprehension problem :)
because i cling desperately to direct translations, will you tell me if these are correct? if so i will memorize and practice saying them so that i can recognize them better in daily life.
ça se dit = it is being said (or is it that "it can be said")? ca se fait = it is being done/made ca se comprend - it is in general understood ca se voit = it is being seen ca se sait = it is generally known ca se peut = it is generally possible ca se mange = it is being eaten (up?) ca se boit = it is being drunk ca se rêve = it is being dreamed about (in general)
also, and last question on this for now i promise, what is the difference in meaning between on le dit and ca se dit?
ça se dit = it is being said, or it can be said, or people say it, or I've heard it
on le dit = people say it/ I've heard it (but no guarantee that it is true)
ça se fait = it is being done/made; it can be done/made, people do/make it
ça se comprend = I/you/we can understand that
ça se voit = I/you/we can see it; it shows
ça se sait = it is generally known; people end up knowing about it
ça se peut = it is possible; this is a valid hypothesis; maybe/perhaps
ça se mange = it is edible; it's good (understatement);
ça se mange avec du pain = to be eaten with bread
ça se boit = it is drinkable; it's good (understatement);
ça se boit avec des glaçons = to be drunk on ice
ça se sent = I/you/we can smell it or ... feel it
ça se rêve: not used
Ça se rêve (not used) sums up the knot I have tied in my poor brain (pun, this is like a bad dream). I would really appreciate your help. I started off with Ça se peut plus tôt (then que needs to go in once or twice?) que ce que vous pensez. Is que ce que correct? Is it common? It really has not helped that my device, set for the English and French alphabets, keeps auto correcting to Spanish. Darkened room, anyone?
"...que ce que" is something you can use:
With a comparative construction:
- J'ai plus d'amis que ce que tu penses (I have more friends than what you think)
With a restrictive construction (ne... que):
- Je ne te dis que ce que je sais (I am telling you but/only what I know).
- "sooner than you think" = "plus tôt que tu ne le penses".
Remember that "what" translates to "ce qui" (subject) or "ce que" (object) outside of interrogative constructions.
- That's what I say = C'est ce que je dis
- That's what is written = C'est ce qui est écrit.
Thank you so very much for your explanation. I had stumbled across 'plus tôt que tu ne le penses', on my 'que ce que' quest. Just for now, do you say this in a more flowing way, in everyday life, please. Que ce que can be surprisingly tricky for English speakers, within a lengthy sentence. However, understanding what I am saying has made a vast difference! Many thanks.
Try reloading the app. Your work will be fine, you just sign in again. That fixed this issue for me. If you are on the website, try going into settings on your device to check your permissions. If you try playing a purchased music track, you can work out what is going on. Is it one site, or a few, occasional or happens for a while, then goes. Oddly, GENTLY tapping your device speaker with your finger, a few times, can fix problems.
This is mostly American English being taught, as there are actually many differences in spelling (like color vs. colour) and some other things (like mom vs. mum). I think that if they put the U.K. flag some Brits might not be too thrilled.
(There have been some U.K. natives on other discussions that were rather unhappy with the English used in Duolingo.)