FR: c'est (un/une) X / il/elle est X

  • teddyvc

    Philippines (Tagalog)
    J'ai appris en grammaire que "c'est" (et non "il est") s'emploie lorsqu'il est suivi d'un article: exemple: C'est l'ami de Sophie; C'est l'origine de ce crime. Or, je lis souvent des phrases dans lesquelles "il est" s'emploie meme s'il est suivi d'un article: exemple: "Il est l'origine de ce crime." Quelle est la regle au juste? (Excusez-moi. Je ne sais pas faire les accents dans imac.)


    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Non, vous avez raison, il est ne s'emploie pas suivi d'un article.
    Les phrases que vous avez lues sont fautives, probablement sous l'influence de l'anglais.


    Senior Member
    "Il est" peut etre suivi d'un article.

    Il est le maire de la commune. Il est l'ami de Sophie.
    Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants. (forme assez rare).


    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Il est le maire de la commune. Il est l'ami de Sophie.


    Ces tournures sont fréquentes, on les entend et les lit quotidiennement, mais elles ne sont pas correctes.
    On doit dire: C'est le maire de la commune, C'est l'ami de Sophie.

    Quant à il est des parfums, il est est l'équivalent de il y a […].
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    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Il est l'heure d'aller se coucher

    C'est un conseil, FrançoisXV, ou un exemple? (Non, je plaisante, bien sûr).
    Appelons ça une exception, ou une tolérance...
    La règle que rappelle teddyvc existe bel et bien, non?


    Philippines (Tagalog)
    Dans "Il est l'heure d'aller se coucher", c'est peut-etre parce qu'on repond "il est une heure," "il est deux heures," etc., et jamais, "c'est une heure," "c'est deux heures," a la question "quelle heure est-il?"


    New Member
    English, United States of America
    what's the difference between "c'est" and "il est". i know that they both can mean "it is" but thats all i know. i know that sometimes i see c'est and sometimes i see 'il est'. i doubt that they are interchangeable. sorry, but i don't have any specific examples or anything.

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I would defer immediately to the native francophones on this, but my understanding is that at least one difference is that "c'est" usually identifies a specific person or thing, or something specific about them, while "il est" presents some descriptive characteristic (including profession) of the person or thing.


    "Il est fort", versus, "C'est un homme très fort."

    "Il est professeur", versus, "C'est un bon professeur."

    I'd be very grateful for any corrections or clarifications on this topic, which can indeed be very confusing for novices.


    English & Euskera
    Grosso motto, these guidelines are fairly helpful.

    -C'est is used whenever a demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, etc) is called for. C'est bien! To pluralize, do not use Ces sont: rather, use ce sont, as in Ce sont de jolies fleures.

    -Il est is used in expressions of time (Il est 14h35, etc).

    -Il est is used in all manner of fixed expressions, where Il means it: Il est important que, il est l'heure de, il est certain que, il est douteux que, etc... Gramatically, this is the 'correct' way to say these things. However, in common parlance, C'est can be inserted into any of the expressions of this last subset: C'est important que, C'est l'heure de, C'est certain que, C'est douteux que, etc...

    This is not exhaustive, but may help a bit!

    Texas Heat Wave

    English, USA
    The usage in the sentence determines which expression is appropriate. Do keep in mind that both expressions can be used to refer to people and things or ideas.

    He is my friend - C'est mon ami.
    It (a pen) is red - Il est rouge.

    This concept is sometimes hard for the English-speaking (or at least American) brain to wrap itself around, because we want "it" to be one word, and "he" to be another. There are lots of examples in these postings to give you an idea. Bonne chance!


    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Another nuance to bear in mind is that "c'est" can denote the whole effect, it's a bit wider than "il est" (or elle est).

    J'aime cette robe. Elle est jolie - I like that dress. It is a pretty one.
    J'aime cette robe. C'est joli. - I like that dress. It looks pretty on you (or some other nuance depending on the context).
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    Senior Member
    I would also say that "il est" is used more to describe something (kind of in general), like something controlled by nature, if you will. Like the time, temperature, and anything which means "it" as an impersonal being (and not referring to a direct object). Like "il est possible" (as mentioned above) "il est necessaire" and "il faut", etc. In English you would most likely use "il est" in the sense of Mother Nature.

    It's really difficult to explain in just one simple rule (that's why there are a few above), so you really need to learn a lot of the phrases using "il est", and ones using "c'est". Once you become experienced with these you will be able to figure for yourself the difference (and then be able to make an accurate prediction on whether or not you should use il est or c'est in certain cases), but putting it into words is just too hard without riddling you with several different guidelines.


    Senior Member
    British English
    “C’est” is used:

    - For dates/days/months/seasons/years:

    C’est le 17 février = It’s the 17th of February
    C’est jeudi = It’s Thursday
    C’est avril = It’s April
    C’est l’hiver = It’s winter
    C’est l’an 2000 = It’s the year 2000
    C’est l’année 2001 = It’s 2001

    - For profession with article:

    C’est un médecin = He’s a doctor
    C’est le médecin = He’s the doctor

    - For the inhabitants of a country:

    C’est un français = He’s a Frenchman

    - When NOT followed by an adjective:

    C’est un désastre = It’s a disaster
    C’est Paul = It’s Paul
    C’est pour toi = It’s for you

    “Il est” is used:

    - For clock time:

    Il est huit heures = It’s eight o’clock

    - For profession (without article):

    Il est médecin = He’s a doctor

    - For nationality:

    Il est français = He is French

    Where both ‘Il est’ and ‘C’est’ are possible:

    - When followed by an adjective, both “c’est” and “il est” are possible, but the meaning changes:

    Il est stupide = He is stupid
    C’est stupide = That’s stupid/silly

    Il est curieux = He is curious/inquisitive
    C’est curieux = That’s curious/odd

    Il est incroyable = He’s amazing
    C’est incroyable = That’s unbelievable

    - When followed by an adjective which is then followed by a clause or infinitive, both “c’est” and “il est” are possible and the meaning stays the same. Note that most old grammar books say that only ‘il est’ is correct:

    Il/c’est possible que nous allions d’excursion = It’s possible that we are going on a trip

    Il/c’est difficile de parler français = It’s difficult to speak French


    New Member
    Canada, français
    [...] Lots of good answers already.

    Txerutudi's guidelines look great.

    timpeac is right, although You would not usually say J'aime ta robe and the add c'est joli. You did add on you in English. The broader context has to be very clear not to be mentioned otherwise it sounds like a mistake. If you stop the sentence after joli, then you are referring to the dress and need to use the personal pronoun. You have to bear in mind that c'est is demonstrative.
    Of course in expressions of time it may not be obvious, but when I say c'est jeudi, I mean that this (demonstrative) day is jeudi.

    Tresley has lots of good examples. In those cases where we use c'est in French you could replace he's by this person is or replace it's by this is and keep the same meaning.

    To his remark about the old grammar books I would say that I would only write il est even though I often say c'est. I make the same difference between cela et ça. C'est une question de niveau de langue.
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    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Of course in expressions of time it may not be obvious, but when I say c'est jeudi, I mean that this (demonstrative) day is jeudi."

    I was told by une Parisienne I know that the phrase for what day it is, is either "nous sommes jeudi" or "on est jeudi", rather than "c'est jeudi". Are all three right, or are there regional or national differences?


    New Member
    Canada, français
    Those are right too.
    On est jeudi is for talking, more than writing.
    I would never say nous sommes jeudi but may be they say it in Paris. I would see it more in a formal speech or in writing.
    As a question, I would ask :Quel jour est-ce, aujourd'hui? ou Quel jour on est aujourd'hui? (more informal)
    I would answer to either question: either c'est jeudi, ou on est vendredi!

    About on: it can be used either as a neuter pronoun or as a replacement of nous. The latter, on is more informal or spoken language. The former can be used in more formal writing as well.


    Australia - English

    I would like to know you can say "c'est midi" when telling someone it's the afternoon, I asked my teacher about it but she said that it is much preferred that you say "il est midi" instead of "c'est"

    But isn't 'C'est' and 'Il est' the same thing?


    Senior Member
    Français (France)
    To sum it up:

    "Il est midi" is formal for "it's noon"
    "C'est midi" is spoken french for "it's noon", although you can easily find it written as well. It's by no means slang.

    "C'est l'après-midi" means "It's the afternoon"
    "Dans l'après-midi" means "in the afternoon"


    Senior Member
    AUSTRALIA: English
    Dear friends
    I have an exam tomorrow and at this late hour still find myself grappling to explain the grammar rule involving the use of c'est as opposed to il est in the following passage:
    Si les dix années de la jeunesse de Thomas permettent de deviner ce que pourra être sa vie tout entière, c'est que ce jeune énarque, dont rien ne semble ... (etc).
    Many thanks for your kind replies!


    Senior Member
    french, France
    quand la structure est impersonnelle, on peut souvent utiliser indifféremment "c'est" ou "il est":
    c'est huit heures
    il est huit heures

    dans votre exemple , "c'est que" est mis pour "c'est parce que", on ne peut donc le remplacer par "il est"


    Senior Member
    English Canada
    S'il va passer un examen, je ne crois pas qu'on accepte «c'est huit heures». Dans un langage plus relâché, peut-être, mais personnellement, je ne le dirais pas.

    Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I fully agree with geostan. C'est huit heures is popular French. I would recommend foreign people not to use such a sentence structure.


    Senior Member
    In c'est, ce refers to an entire notion previously stated, not a specific noun. In your example, I think ce refers to the comparison between the ten years of youth and the future. We would use il est ... if we were speaking specifically about Thomas or elle est ... if speaking of his life. However c'est... is more abstract in reference.


    Senior Member
    Français, Canada
    "c'", c'est pour une chose, = "it"
    alors que "il", c'est pour une personne de sexe masculin, = "he"
    et "elle", pour une personne de sexe féminin, = "she"


    Senior Member
    French, France
    I don't think so.

    c' indicates what a person talks about -> it/that
    il can be either a person or a thing when this one is masculine -> it/he
    elle can be either a person or a thing when this one is feminine -> it/she


    Senior Member
    English, New Zealand
    From knowledge, I gather (so far) that c'est generally only applies to non-human things, i.e objects, although I'm not sure if this is also applied to animals too...

    Il est is generally for masculine persons, or in some cases when an object is masculine...but now I'm confusing myself...:confused:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    J'ai l'impression que, pour les choses, les deux sont souvent presque interchangeables:
    "Elle est grande, la voiture" = "C'est grand, la voiture"
    En revanche, je pense qu'on dirait "Elle est grande, la dame" mais probablement pas, "C'est grand, la dame" ....... mais, par contre, on peut dire, "C'est une grande dame"

    C'est vrai? Ou il ne l'est pas?

    It's very similar in English, "She's big (the car)" = "It's big" (although, apart from ships and cars, few inanimate things have genders).
    You can say, "She's big, the woman" but not "It's big, the woman" ... and there are times you can say, "It's a big woman" and even "It's a grande dame" (which means something else!)

    You tend to say "it's a big woman" when you are don't know much else about her:
    "Is that a big man over there?" "No, it's a big woman".
    "Can you describe Sally?" "Yes, she's a big woman"
    Does it work like that in French too?


    Senior Member
    A pretty rudimentary question I know, and there's probably an answer for it somewhere on this forum but I didn't find one.

    Which is correct, and can someone tell me why?

    J'ai ton livre. Il est sur la table.


    J'ai ton livere. C'est sur la table.

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    England/Hong Kong, English & Chinese
    Quelque fois Je trouve que c'est difficile a savoir quand a employer "c'est" et quand a employer "Il/elle est"... par exemple si j'ecris:

    -Paris, c'est comment?
    -Oh, il est magnifique. C'est une ville pleine de spectacles!

    -Tu connais Pedro?
    -Mais oui. C'est un professeur d'espagnol. Il est tres gentil!

    -Qu'est-ce que c'est?
    -Ca? C'est un chat que j'ai rencontre dans la rue.
    -Il est mignon!

    -Tu connais Sandrine?
    -C'est une nouvelle etudiante. Elle est jolie et elle parle bien chinois.

    Est-ce que c'est vrai?

    Je ne suis pas sur avec les regles de l'utilisation de 'c'est' et 'il/elle est'...

    Je m'excuse pour le manque d'accents car le clavier chinois ne marche pas comme les claviers en Europe.

    Merci en avance!


    Senior Member
    French France
    Only one mistake :
    Oh, c'est magnifique.
    Apart from that, it's all good.
    detail : we say merci d'avance, in French, merci en avance is an anglicisme ;)


    Senior Member
    france, français
    your sentences are correct exept " -Paris, c'est comment?
    -Oh, il est magnifique. C'est une ville pleine de spectacles!"

    your other sentence reffer to human or animals so you can use il or elle but Paris is not a person so you should say "oh, c'est magnifique."

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    The other examples are fine. I would say (based on intuition) that we use 'c'est' on the first occurrence of a pronoun for a person, and on the second occurrence then we use 'il' or 'elle' because then we know we are talking of a person. We don't really use 'il' or 'elle' for towns. I am not 100% sure of that last bit, but it must be very rare if it exists.
    Hope it helps understand.


    Senior Member
    C'est comme en Anglais quand tu dis :

    He is kind : il est charmant
    It is kind to help : C'est gentil de m'aider



    Senior Member
    france, français
    and if you wonder why we use "c'est " and "il/elle" for one person, like:
    "-C'est une nouvelle etudiante. Elle est jolie et elle parle bien chinois."
    we say like this because you can't say "elle est une nouvelle etudiante" ilt's not correct, and you can't say either "c'est jolie" beacause it would mean that you speak about an object


    England/Hong Kong, English & Chinese
    Merci a tous! :)

    Pour: -Paris, c'est comment?
    -Oh, il est magnifique. C'est une ville pleine de spectacles!

    Un prof m'a dit il y a quelques mois que si on as deja introduit l'objet dans le premier phrase, on peut continuer a utiliser 'il est ou elle est' si on veut ajouter quelque chose en ce concerne cet objet...

    Mais soit... je pense qu'il a oublie a dire que pour un endroit il faut employer 'c'est' plutot que 'il/elle est'!


    Puellam audiam

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin

    J'ai vu dans mon livre de la Grammaire française cette phrase:
    Il est interdit de fumer dans la salle.

    Je voudrais savoir si c'est possible de dire:
    "C'est interdit de fumer dans la salle."?

    ça marche ou pas? Si ça ne marche pas, pourquoi?
    Si ça marche mais il y aurait different sens, es que vous pouvez m'expliqer?

    Merci d'avance!!!


    Senior Member

    Tu peux employer « c'est », mais si tu t'adresses à quelqu'un à l'oral (et d'une manière familière) :)


    England British English
    Can anyone help me with this problem?
    My French textbook gives the following example:-

    [- Mon mari et moi, on va voir Doux réveur à l’Odéon ce soir.]
    - N’y allez pas, je l’ai vu, ce n’est pas très bon.

    My grammar text suggests that this should be
    N’y allez pas, je l’ai vu, il n’est pas très bon.
    because il refers back to a noun which has just been mentioned (the film).

    Am I misunderstanding the rule? Or can it be broken in colloquial speech?

    Thanks in advance.


    Senior Member
    Switzerland French
    Yes, you're right: colloquial speech but the 2 sentences are perfectly correct
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    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    French (lower Normandy)
    Your grammar text is perfectly right here as it does refer to the film.
    N’y allez pas, je l’ai vu, il n’est pas très bon.

    Maybe you're confused with things like this:
    "J'ai acheté 2 jupes pour 10£ !" - I bought 2 skirts for £10.
    "Wow, c'est vraiment pas cher" - Wow, that's not expensive.

    "Regarde ma nouvelle jupe : elle est super belle & elle ne m'a coûté que 10£"
    "Look at my new skirt: it (=my new skirt) is very nice & it cost me only £10"

    Well maybe I've confused you even more now :eek:

    Don't hesitate to ask if you have other problems on specific sentences :)