Created using FigmaCreated using FigmaCreated using FigmaCreated using Figma

C'est vs il/elle est: Saying it is

In French, to give opinions or state facts about things, it is can be expressed in two ways: either c'est or il est/elle est. 

It can be tricky to know when to use one or the other, so here's the way to do it!

1. c'est  in sentences it/he/she is + a/the/my... + [thing/people]

C'est une jolie robe.
It is a pretty dress.

Qu'est-ce que tu en penses ? - C'est un livre intéressant.
What do you think about it? - It's an interesting book.

C'est le fils de Martha.
He's Martha's son.

Qui est Sylvie ? - C'est ma sœur.
Who's Sylvie? - She's my sister.

C'est la robe que je porte au travail.
That's the dress that I wear at work.

If it/he/she is is followed by un/une/le/la... (any form of article / determinant) - it is a beautiful dress / she is a nice person - then you will use c'est.


2. Cases expressing opinions or simple statements (adjectives) about prementioned things, look at these rules:

a - c'est  for general, unspecific statements and opinions

Tu étudies la science ? - Oui, c'est passionnant !
Do you study science? - Yes, it's thrilling!

C'est vraiment magnifique ici!
It's really beautiful here!

Miam, c'est délicieux!
Yummy, it's delicious!

 

In those cases, we're expressing opinions or statements that refer to the thing generally: we're saying science in general is thrilling, or that something unspecified is great or delicious.
Therefore, here we use c'est to say it is.

 

b - il est/elle est  for statements and opinions related to specific things

Tu aimes mon pull ? -Oui, il est très beau.
Do you like my sweater? -Yes, it's very nice.

Où est ta tasse ? - Elle est sur la table.
Where is your cup? -It is on the table.

Et le lit? - Il est encore dans le camion.
What about the bed? - It's still in the truck.

In those cases, the opinions expressed relate to specific items, we know precisely what we're talking about, whether it be my jumper (not jumpers in general), your plate or that specific bed.
Therefore, here we use il est or elle est, depending on the gender of the thing it refers to (remember that things have genders too in French!).

ATTENTION: 
When using il/elle, you have to make adjectives agree accordingly, whereas you always use the masculine with c'est. 
(See Standalone adjectives after c'est are always masculine)

 

Ambiguous cases in French

Look at these two examples talking about soup:

Tu aimes la soupe? - Oui, elle est délicieuse!
Do you like the soup? - Yes, it's delicious!


Tu aimes la soupe? - Oui, c'est réconfortant!
Do you like soup? -Yes, it's comforting!

Note that in French, both statements look identical (Tu aimes la soupe ?) when in English they mean two distinct things: 
Do you like soup? is a question on soup in general, whereas
Do you like the soup? is asking about a specific soup, i.e. the one they're eating at that moment.

The tricky fact is that in French, you use the definite article le, la, l' for general statements as well as specific the.
See Using le, la, l', les before nouns when generalising (definite articles).

So here you need to know the context to use either c'est (soup in general) or il est/elle est (the specific soup). 

 

See also C'est, ce sont = this is, these are (demonstrative pronouns)

See how to use c'est with adjectives : C'est = It is

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

C'est vraiment magnifique ici!
It's really beautiful here!


C'est le fils de Martha.
He's Martha's son.


Tu aimes mon pull ? -Oui, il est très beau.
Do you like my sweater? -Yes, it's very nice.


Et le lit? - Il est encore dans le camion.
What about the bed? - It's still in the truck.


C'est une jolie robe.
It is a pretty dress.


Tu étudies la science ? - Oui, c'est passionnant !
Do you study science? - Yes, it's thrilling!


C'est la robe que je porte au travail.
That's the dress that I wear at work.


Miam, c'est délicieux!
Yummy, it's delicious!


Qu'est-ce que tu en penses ? - C'est un livre intéressant.
What do you think about it? - It's an interesting book.


Tu aimes la soupe? - Oui, c'est réconfortant!
Do you like soup? -Yes, it's comforting!


Qui est Sylvie ? - C'est ma sœur.
Who's Sylvie? - She's my sister.


C'est une bonne nageuse.
She is a good swimmer.


Tu aimes la soupe? - Oui, elle est délicieuse!
Do you like the soup? - Yes, it's delicious!


Où est ta tasse ? - Elle est sur la table.
Where is your cup? -It is on the table.



Q&A

Dragana

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2018

3 replies

Tu aimes le violet? Oui, c'est tres jolie!

If this asking if you like a specific colour. Why is it not "Oui, il est tres jolie!

Another referred to ma coupe - it was Elle est tres ....., WHY elle here?

Thanks

Chris

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2018

28/05/18

I guess it is because it is anything in violet, not a specific color. You would probably say:


Tu aimes la couleur de mon pull? -- Oui, il te va bien.


Concerning the haircut: it is a specific haircut, namely yours and not any haircut in general. Hence "elle".


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

29 May 2018

29/05/18

Or, Oui, elle te va bien. If you want to refer to the specific color of the sweater. 


-- Chris. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

29 May 2018

29/05/18

Hi Dragana,


Yes 'violet' refers to the colour here :


J'adore le violet , c'est très joli. (I love purple it's a beautiful colour)


You would use 'c'est' + adjective in the masculine form for general comments.


Le bleu, c'est beau mais froid comme couleur dans une chambre.


( Blue is a beautiful colour but cold for a bedroom.)


J'ai peint ma salle à manger en jaune, c'est très gai. (I painted my dining room in yellow , it's very cheerful)


I agree with Chris on the haircut it is most specific here.


Hope this helps!


 

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

5 April 2018

2 replies

Miam, c'est délicieux! Why not il est?

Miam, c'est délicieux! Why not il est? It's referring to something specific (the delicious specific thing being eaten), I assume, since we don't see the sentences before it.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 April 2018

5/04/18

I guess you need to know the context in which this sentence was said. If being asked, "Tu aimes la soupe?", one would likely reply by saying, "Oui, elle est délicieuse." referring specifically to the soup.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

8/04/18

Okay, thank you.

Catriona

Kwiziq community member

27 March 2018

4 replies

General vs. Particular

Do you like pizza? is a question about pizza in general. Therefore according to the lesson it should be C'est but the answer given is Elle. I think either the answer or the lesson should be changed.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

28 March 2018

28/03/18

Hi Catriona,


can you post the entire sentence you have a question about? I am not sure what the context is.


-- Chris.

Catriona

Kwiziq community member

28 March 2018

28/03/18

It was about the difference between C'est and il/elle when answering a question about whether you like something or what do you think of it. The lesson said if asked how do you like school, for example, you would answer C'est génial, but if asked how do you like your new school you would say Elle est géniale. But then the question was how do you like pizza, and the correct answer was given as elle not c'est.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

28 March 2018

28/03/18

Yes, absolutely correct.


Tu aimes pizza? -- Oui, c'est bon.
Tu aimes cette pizza ? -- Oui, elle est bonne.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 March 2018

28/03/18

Bonjour Catriona !


I looked at your Correction Board, and you had actually selected "elle", which was indeed marked incorrect, while "c' " was the correct answer.
To report on specific questions such as in this case, you should use the "Report issue" button, so we can access the very question you're referring to :)


I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

Catriona

Kwiziq community member

27 March 2018

1 reply

New algorithm not working?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 March 2018

28/03/18

Bonjour Catriona !


If you're reporting a technical issue, please use the "report issue" button rather than the Q&A please :)

Kyaw

Kwiziq community member

21 December 2017

3 replies

Ton assiette. 'ton' is masculine. Right? So why we use 'elle' in the example?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

21 December 2017

21/12/17

You are correcte in noticing that "ton" is the masculine form while "assiette" is feminine. This apparent mismatch is due to the word assiette starting with a vowel. "Ta assiette" would have two vowels clashi g in a difficult to pronounce combination.
The French take the simple way out and use the masculine form whenever this happens.


"Mon amie" is another example. "Amie" is female but you use "mon" nonetheless I believe there is a dedicated lesson on this.


-- Chris.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

21 December 2017

21/12/17

Bonjour Kyaw!


Chris is right there, you can see the related lesson:


https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/use-mon-not-ma-with-feminine-nouns-starting-with-a-vowel-or-mute-h-possessive-adjectives


However, I also agree this example is a bit complicated and misleading at this level, so I've decided to replace it with a more straightforward sentence.


Merci et à bientôt !

Kyaw

Kwiziq community member

21 December 2017

21/12/17

Bonjour Claus et Aurélie. Merci beaucoup.

Rene

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

1 reply

Merci Ron.

Bonne journée.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

21/10/17

Bonjour Rene,
Je vous en prie.
à vous aussi, bonne journée

Rene

Kwiziq community member

20 October 2017

1 reply

Q about lawlessfrench

It looks exactly like kwiziq site: same lessons, same q&a. Am I missing something?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

21/10/17

Kwiziq and progress with Lawless French both use Kwiziq. I had the same question and asked about it to which Gareth replied.
Bonne chance.

Rene

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2017

1 reply

Sorry about my typos...

There is no way for me to correct my question.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

21 October 2017

21/10/17

No problem, je comprends complètement.

Rene

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2017

1 reply

Ron, thanks.

Sometimes you say "it's being repeated, therefore use c'est ". But in the case of Didier, its being repeated, so il is OK. IOW, I don't know when to use cest or il! What a struggle! You mentioned context. I made up all my examples. Could this lesson provide LOTS OF EXAMPLES WITHCONTELX CONTEXT? Maybe by reading dozens of context based examples, we learners may eventually get this difficult topic...

Ron

Kwiziq community member

20 October 2017

20/10/17

Bonsoir Rene,
Here are four more sites that cover the use of il vs c'est. Hopefully you can get a better understanding from these different ways of explaining this.
http://laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/pro3.html
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/cest-vs-il-est/
https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-grammar/cest-versus-il-elle-est
https://www.thoughtco.com/french-expressions-cest-vs-il-est-4083779
Bonne chance.

Rene

Kwiziq community member

17 October 2017

1 reply

Still confused.

Paris? C'est magnifique ! Why? Paris is a very specific place? Didier ? Il est très intelligent. Ok Ma nouvelle voiture? __ est très confortable. Not sure when to use ce or il/elle...

Ron

Kwiziq community member

17 October 2017

17/10/17

Bonjour Rene,
Here is the part of the lesson that I believe is appropriate:
Cases expressing opinions or simple statements (adjectives) about prementioned things, look at these rules:
a - c'est for general, unspecific statements and opinions
Actually, to me, Paris in the phrase mentioned appears to have been mentioned previously, i.e. Paris?, the question mark in oral or written format tends to indicate the word is being repeated back; hence the use of «c'est»
For example:
speaker: Have you visited Paris:
responder: Paris? Oui, c'est magnifique!
-->As far as Didier is concerned: hopefully one does not know too many people named Didier so i would think that is quite specific.
--> Ma nouvelle voiture? __ est très confortable. Again there is a question mark like it is being repeated during a conversation, so «c'est» would be appropriate.
Again as has been stated many times in various lessons, it is all about the context. Without the complete context, a phrase is difficult to analyze to obtain the exact sense.
J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait.
Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet

Ron (a non-native speaker)

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

find your French level

Share the love!

How has your day been?