In English, this and that (and these and those) have an associated proximity: this/these tend to be things nearer than that/those.
However, in French, on their own, ce/cet/cette can mean either this or that, and ces can mean either these or those - it just depends on context.
Look at these examples:
Cette fille est belle.That girl is beautiful.
Ces hommes sont méchants.These men are mean.
Ces femmes sont méchantes.These women are mean.
Cette is used with feminine singular nouns
Ces is used for all plural nouns (masculine and feminine)
Cases with masculine singular nouns
Ce garçon est intelligent.That boy is smart.
Cet homme est beau.This man is handsome.
Cet arbre est très sinistre.That tree is very sinister.
Ce is used with masculine singular nouns starting with a consonant; whereas cet is used with masculine singular nouns starting with a vowel or mute h
-> This is to make pronunciation easier!
Note that it doesn't apply to feminine nouns starting with a vowel or mute h, as cette doesn't pose any pronunciation issue!
See also Celui, celle, ceux, celles = the one(s) (demonstrative pronouns) and Ce, cet, cette, ces [duration] -là / -ci = that/those or this/these [duration] (demonstrative adjectives)
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