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.)
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?"
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.
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.
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...
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!
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.
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
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.
"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?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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
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'!