FR: il est / c'est trop cher

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by pulper, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. pulper New Member

    English - Canadian

    Continuing on with FSI French lesson 7, and I'm doing practice drill A-14 (c'est vs. il est).

    It's hard for me to understand why some of them use il est, and some use c'est. I've seen some explanations for this and have looked it up in grammar books, but I'm still not sure. Here is an example:

    Allez-vous acheter l'auto de Roger? Non, elle est trop chere.

    Avez-vous une bonne? Non, c'est trop cher.

    As far as I can tell, if it is referencing something specific, such as Roger's car (rather than simply a car), then you would use il/elle est. Another example with elle est is cette chemise, which again would be specific to that shirt. If it is something more general (a maid, not a specific maid), then it is c'est. Another example with c'est is un taxi. If it was ce taxi, then my understanding would be to use il est.

    Is that correct?

  2. Bastoune

    Bastoune Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    French & English - Canada
    In the first case, the object (car) is too expensive.

    In the second case, having a made (une bonne) is too expensive -- not that the maid herself is "expensive."

    Otherwise one uses "il/elle est" with an adjective and "C'est" with "un/une"

    C'est un animal. Il est grand. C'est un grand animal.


    Il est + adjective + de = a general activity is of a certain quality. / C'est + adj. + à = qualities of a specific thing

    Il est difficile de lire = It's difficult to read (reading is difficult/he act of reading is difficult).

    C'est difficile à lire = It's difficult to read (the text is difficult, it is full of vocabulary that is very advanced).
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2009
  3. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    C'est describes the general situation (C'est trop cher, une bonne - Having a maid is too expensive)

    Il/Elle est describes a specific example Elle est trop chère, cette bonne - This maid is too expensive

    PS: "FSI French" was written in the 1960s. The grammar isn't too different today, but the cultural contexts in it are very outdated (e.g., the cost of maids).
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2009
  4. pulper New Member

    English - Canadian
    Thanks very much for your replies! It is still not easy for me to do automatically but I'm sure in time it will be. I have a french friend at work and I was able to talk to her about it and she said that for her it is just second nature and she doesn't have to think about it (the same way some difficult things in English to learn would be second nature to me). That's why some of these things are hard to teach (I'm sure) b/c a native speaker doesn't even have to think about them.

    The examples and explanations are very helpful. Thanks!

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