French: C’est… or Il est?

Copie de MONTREAL?-16

Q: When is it better to use C’est instead of Il est in French?


C’est to present or introduce a noun

Imagine you  are looking  at a family picture. Someone points out someone in the picture.

-Who is that?

– Oh! C’est mon frère. / It’s my brother.

Here, C’ stands for “cela”, or This.  It replaces “the person you are pointing” / “that thing you are talking about”, etc. You are introducing the subject, but you are not describing it.


J’ai une voiture. C’est une Mercedes. / I have a car. It’s a Mercedes

Macron?  C’est le nouveau président. / Macron? It’s the new president.

C’est un livre de langues. / It’s a language book.

Now, let’s go back to our example.

-Oh it’s your brother?

-Oui. Il est policier. / Yes. He’s a police officer.

Now that the guy on the picture has been identified, you can start to describe your brother. He’s not a random stranger in a photo. “Il” (or Elle) can be used.


Oui, c’est ma voiture. Elle est très rapide. / Yes, it’s my car. It is really fast

C’est un livre de langue. Il est ennuyeux. / It’s a language book. It’s boring.


C’est +adjective to express an opinion about something in general

Back to our situation. You are still looking at the picture of your brother. The other person says:

-Il est très beau. / He’s very handsome.

Now this is not a general statement. It’s very specific to the guy on the picture. Moving on to later that day. You are talking about Indo-European languages to the same person, explaining a couple of things. Then, the person comments:

-Oh, c’est intéressant.

Now you don’t  know for sure what it is, among all your brilliant explanations, that the person finds interesting, but in a general manner, he or she finds what you are saying interesting.

We often use C’est to talk about the weather or to express our feelings about a general concept. Note that the adjective following C’est is always masculine, since it describes C’ or Cela.

-C’est froid aujourd’hui… / It’s cold today.

-Le chocolat, c’est bon! (Here, you talk about chocolate in general. You could say “le chocolate est bon” to talk about a specific chocolate you would be eating or drinking at the moment).

-C’est important! / It’s important

-La soupe, c’est bon! / Soup (generally speaking) is good (note how “bon” is masculine)

-La France, c’est grand / France (generally speaking) is big.

Alors, c’est plus clair? 😉


See also:

Using Y in French

Using EN in French

Qui or Que?

Je suis sorti or J’ai sorti?

Pour, pendant, depuis?

À, en, au?

De or Du?


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