1. Ce and ça
are third person singular subject pronouns. "Ce
is also used as a third person plural subject pronoun.
two forms of ce
the full form, and the abbreviated form c'
used in front of a vowel.
matters, one might say that "ce
are the equivalent French pronouns to the English pronoun "it
But of course things are not as simple as that, and the usage of
by no means always corresponds to the usage of it
1.1. "Ce" or "ça" corresponding to the English
") is used as a third person neutral or impersonal
subject pronoun before the verb être
and in this respect it normally corresponds to "it
When used before the third person plural of être, it either
or to "they
(a contraction of cela
is frequently used as the neutral or impersonal subject pronoun before
other verbs, and in this respect it usually corresponds
- but also to that
It's fantastic !
sera le dernier concert de l'année.
It'll be the last concert of
sont mes parents.
They're my parents
sont mes parents qui me l'ont donné.
It's my parents who gave it to
dépend de ce qu'il dira
depends on what he says.
Tu vas chez le dentiste? ça va
faire mal... ou plutôt il va faire mal !
you going to the dentist? It'll hurt,... or rather
he'll hurt !
(Note this difference)
1.2. When to use ce
and when to use
il at the
start of a sentence or clause.
il est followed by a noun.
The noun will normally be introduced by c'est
especially if it is followed by a relative clause.
But when the noun defines a job or position and is used with no
, then it will normally be introduced by the
personal pronoun structure il
est / elle est.
il est followed by an adjective.
ma soeur !
It's (she's) my
Ce sont mes parents qui me l'ont
It's my parents who gave it to me.
la tempête qui a coulé le bâteau
was the storm that sank the boat.
sera la dernière fois que je le ferai pour toi !
be the last time I do it for you !
pense que c'est un architecte !
I think he's / it's an architect.
pense qu'il est médecin.
I think he's a doctor.
(Note this difference)
The adjective will normally be introduced by c'est
if it closes the statement, and does not lead on to a subordinate
The adjective will normally be introduced by il est
if it leads on to a subordinate clause.
très difficile !
c'est parfait !
But its / that's
est très difficile de trouver la bonne réponse !
It's very difficult to find the right answer.
The third person singular personal pronoun on
is very common in French, and does not just correspond to the English
The French use on
in cases where English speakers might use one, we,
you, someone, they
or even a passive verb form.
The extent of the use of on
particularly in informal and spoken French, is best explained by means
that the pronoun "on
exists only as a subject
; it has no
form, and no
possessive form. If a possessive form is required, the speaker / writer
will use the first or third person possessive form best matching the
persons implied by the "on
is really being used in an impersonal sense, then the
possessive pronouns to use are those corresponding to il
son, sa, ses
ne peut pas faire ça !
One / We / You
can't do that !
va voir ce qu'il va faire
quand il reviendra.
We'll see what he does when he gets back.
Je pense qu'on
va être très déçu, n'est-ce
think you'll be very disappointed, won't you.
ai marre ! C'est la seconde fois qu'on m'a volé ma
I'm fed up! That's the second time my car's been stolen !
entendu dire qu'on va fermer notre bibliothèque
I've heard it said that they're going to close our
departmental library. or
I've heard it
said that our departmental library's going to be closed.
m'a dit qu'on peut faire ce qu'on veut !.
He told me you/we can do what you/we like.
doit s'occuper de ses enfants !
One has to look
after one's children ! or
have to look after your children.
doit s'occuper de nos enfants !
We have to look
after our children ! or
One has to look
after our children. or
Someone has to look after our/your children
a peur... ça vous fait peur, n'est-ce pas !
frightened.... it frightens one, doesn't it !
object form for on,
a French speaker must choose another object pronoun; English does not
have this problem)