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  5. "It is better than nothing."

"It is better than nothing."

Translation:C'est mieux que rien.

December 31, 2012



Why not meilleur?


I have the same question.


Could "Il est mieux que rien" convey the same meaning as "C'est mieux que rien"?

Or can we say that Il/Elle should generally be interpreted as "He/She" when paired with Être? When Il is paired with faire, it often conveys the connotation of "it" as in: Il fait pleut / It is raining.


Camerican :

  • "Il fait pleut" makes no sense, it doesn't exist. It is "Il pleut" (= it rains / it's raining)

  • "il" does not necessarily mean "it" / an impersonal 3d person when used with "faire" : in "Il fait des gâteaux" or "Il fait des efforts", there's no doubt that "he makes cakes and efforts"

  • maybe you're confused with "falloir", which is always used with an impersonal "il" : "il faut partir" (it's necessary to go / we need to go), "il faut appeler la police" (someone call the police)

  • Now, with this exercise : "C'est mieux que rien" is an expression ; not only it is crystal clear that it's not about a "he"/"il", but also you cannot change it into "Il est mieux que rien".

  • Sometimes you can use an impersonal "il" instead of "ce/ça", as shown in the link provided by Sjaitkaas, but also in this type of sentences : "C'est important de bien communiquer" = "Il est important de bien communiquer" (It's important to communicate well) / "Ça devient difficile de trouver une place dans le quartier" = "Il devient difficile de trouver une place dans le quartier" (It's getting difficult to find a parking place in the neighbourhood) / etc.

  • Roughly, "il" instead of "ce/ça" will sound more formal / posh / serious. The reason why you can use one for the other in the examples above is because the "ce/ça" is just a popular impersonal "il", and they're about something general and/or have no meaning per se. Indeed, those examples could be said like this "Bien communiquer est important", "Trouver une place est difficile", etc. The "C'est" or "Il est" part is not necessary.

  • Whereas in "C'est mieux que rien", that "c'" which stands for "ce" = "cela", "ça" = this or that. So that word has a proper meaning and refers to something, "that thing there" or "this subject we're talking about". It's a pronoun with a real use, implying a noun mentioned before or standing in front of me.

  • That's why you cannot use "il" instead of that "ce", because it's not impersonal, but demonstrative.


I think that it depends of what comes after "il est" or "c'est" , in this case it is better, an adjective, that describes a situation in this sentence I think, so it has to be c'est and not il est. See http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa032500.htm


It is my impression that Sjaitkaas is right in so far, as it should be "C'est" because it is referring to a situation. Unfortunately though, this rule about situation (use "c'est"!) vs person (use "il/elle est"!) applies to adjectives only, and we had just pointed out that "mieux" is an adverb. The rules for adverbs are: If it is unmodified, use "il/elle est"; if it is modified, use "c'est". So I'm wondering now if I have to assume that the comparative form of an adverb counts as a 'modified adverb', or if there is some additional rule that french.about.com isn't mentioning?!


What is the difference between a modified and an unmodified adverb? What do those two terms mean?


"Ça va bien" uses "bien" as an adverb. "Ça va très bien" has "bien" as an adverb modified by "très".


I will likely never fully understand the difference at all. It is extremely difficult and seemingly arbitrary. I am a native English speaker from the US. I now live in UK, and find that, although they are native English speakers as well, they have different grammar rules than what I learned. The only thing I wish is to be able to read French well enough and communicate well enough even if it is broken speech on my part. I will continue to study this and watch undubbed French films to get it as well as I can. Unless I move to France that is the best I can do as it is now. I can strive to learn it perfectly, and that will help to learn it imperfectly.


I think: mieux adv., meilleur adj. Or?


Just for curiosity's sake, could it also be c'est plus de rien?


No. That would mean "it's more of nothing / more nothing" which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

You probably mean "c'est plus que rien" however, and that makes sense, but it means "it's more than nothing." That isn't the best translation of the sentence, since it is is more or less a fixed phrase, just like "it's better than nothing" in English.


Merci pour ta réponse. C'est très utile!


Just when I thought I understood. .. I thought one used "Il est" when it was followed by an unmodified adverb. Isn't mieux an adverb?


"mieux" is an adjective: it is "bon" in the comparative form, i.e. "good" that becomes "better" when you compare things.


''Mieux'' is actually the comparative of ''bien'', not of ''bon'', whose comparative form is ''meilleur''.

''Bien'' and ''bon'' (and by extension, their comparative forms) don't match up exactly with ''well'' and ''good''. In French, when one makes a general statement about something, ''bien'' is used, even though we might expect an adjective. For example, in this sentence, ''c'est'' isn't used in reference to a specific object. Thus, ''mieux'', rather than ''meilleur'' is used.

It's more complicated than that, and there are several rules about when to use ''bien'' and ''bon'', but I don't know them well enough to explain them--especially since I learned French in Québec, where they are often used incorrectly.


Just a tip, if you look up mieux and rien in the French part of a French-English dictionary, you will find masses of idioms, etc, many word for word like their English counterparts.


Hmm, does this mean "it's not good at all (because it's better than nothing)" or "it's better (because there's at least something instead of nothing at all)"?


The second option.

The first option might be something like "C'est pire que rien" (It's worse than nothing).


Merci !

I guess I misunderstood "it's better than nothing" the whole time. I thought it meant "nothing is worse than that".


"Ce n'est mieux que rien". c'est correct ou non ? Il ne faut pas "ne"?


Eh bien non, ce n'est pas correct.

Would you say "It is not better than nothing" to mean... "It is better than nothing" ?!?

You are probably confused with the "...ne...que..." structure that means only in English. But here it is not the same "que" that is used in this sentence: the "que" here means than, as the "mieux / better" (comparative) suggests.

You can only use that "ne" with "que" when you mean "It is nothing but...":

  • Ce n'est qu'un petit bobo = It is only / just / nothing but a slight injury


Merci ElGusso. Mais j'avais pensé l'autre chose. Vous avez dit la structure "ne ... que". Dans ce cas-là je pense l'autre structure, par exemple "Personne ne dit", et "Rien ne vient." Le mot "rien" est combiné toujours avec le mot "ne" ou non?


Oui, mais ici "rien" ne fait pas partie de la phrase de base, c'est-à-dire celle avec le verbe (C'est). "Rien" n'est que (haha) l'objet de la comparaison - et la négation est nécessaire seulement s'il y a un verbe (c'est l'action, le fait, l'état etc. qui est nié).

Ce serait la même chose avec "personne" et tu comprendras mieux "où" est le ne :

  • Mmmh, il fait les pizzas comme personne ! = He makes pizzas like no-one

Sous-entendu / implied:

  • Il fait les pizzas comme personne ne sait les faire = he makes pizzas like no-one can make them.

Là apparaît la négation car il y a un verbe, sur lequel porte la négation.

Mais dans cet exercice ici, tu ne peux pas porter la négation sur le verbe car ce verbe est positif (It is indeed better than nothing [which is not as good]).


Merci!! Maintenant, j'ai compris ton explication.


Why can't you say " C'est plus bien que rien"?


Note that in English we don't usually say that something is "more good" or "more well"; we say that it's "better". It's the same in French, except that there are two words for better, "meilleur" (for "bon") and "mieux" (for "bien").

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