Demonstrative Pronouns and Determiners in French

What are demonstrative pronouns in French?

Demonstrative pronouns and determiners (les pronoms et déterminants démonstratifs) are words that help us to specify which thing or person in a group we are referring to in particular. In French, the demonstratives are ce, cet, celui-ci, celui-là and their variations. Depending on their grammatical role in the sentence, these words can be pronouns (which replace nouns) or determiners (which appear together with a noun). They correspond to the English pronouns this/that/these/those.

Learn all about demonstrative pronouns and determiners in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then test your knowledge in the free exercises.

Example

- Ce mouton est mignon.

- Lequel? Celui-ci ou celui-là?

- Je parle de celui du milieu. Les autres sont trop grands!

French demonstrative pronouns and determiners

Person Demonstrative Determiner Demonstrative Pronoun
(simple)
Demonstrative Pronoun
(compound)
Masculine Singular ce, cet celui celui-ci / celui-là
Plural ces ceux ceux-ci / ceux-là
Feminine Singular cette celle celle-ci / celle-là
Plural ces celles celles-ci / celles-là
Indefinite form ce ceci / cela / ça

How to use demonstrative pronouns and determiners in French

Demonstrative pronouns replace a noun, while demonstrative determiners accompany the noun they modify.

  • The French demonstrative pronouns are celui/ceux in the masculine and celle/celles in the feminine. If the noun does not appear explicitly in the sentence, we use a demonstrative pronoun in its place to single it out from a group.
    Example:
    Je parle de celui du milieu.I’m talking about that one in the middle.
  • In French, there are also compound forms of the demonstrative pronouns: celui-ci, celle-ci, celui-là, celle-là. The forms ending in -ci indicate something that’s close to the speaker (from ici – here). The forms ending in -là indicate something that’s farther away from the speaker (là-bas – there).
    Example:
    Lequel? Celui-ci ou celui-là?Which one? This one or that one?
  • Demonstrative determiners are used before a noun. Ce, cet, cette, ces are different from normal articles in that they emphasise one specific thing.
    Example:
    Ce mouton est mignon.This sheep is cute.

Demonstrative determiners

Demonstrative determiners always come directly before a noun.

Example:
Ce mouton est mignon.This sheep is cute.

We only use the masculine singular form cet when the noun begins with a vowel or a silent h.

Example:
Cet hommethis man

If we’re using the compound form in this situation, the -ci/-là is attached directly to the noun.

Example:
Ce mouton-ci est mignon.This sheep here is cute.
Ce mouton- est trop grand.That sheep there is too big.

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns (les pronoms démonstratifs) stand alone — they do not accompany a noun, they stand in its place.

Example:
Ce mouton est celui du berger.This sheep is the one that belongs to the shepherd.
Celui-ci est son mouton.This one here is his sheep.

The simple form is used in the following cases:

  • when the demonstrative pronoun is followed by de
    Example:
    Les moutons dans le pré sont ceux du berger.The sheep in the field are the shepherd’s ones.
  • when a relative clause follows the demonstrative pronoun
    Example:
    Les moutons dans le pré sont ceux que garde le berger.The sheep in the field are the ones that the shepherd tends.

In all other situations, we use the compound form of the demonstrative pronoun.

Indefinite demonstrative pronouns

The indefinite demonstrative pronouns in French are: ce (c' before a vowel), ça, cela (formal) and ceci (formal). They can refer to a part of a sentence or to an entire clause. We express this similarly in English.

Example:
C'est intéressant. Ce sont de bonnes nouvelles.
That’s interesting. This is good news.

Unlike in English, however, the French form ce is always used in the singular, regardless of whether the verb is in the singular or the plural. We only use ce/c' with the verb être.

Example:
C’est lui qui garde les moutons.He is the one who tends the sheep.
Ce sont eux qui sont gardés par le berger.They are the ones that are tended by the shepherd.

For all the other verbs we use ça.

Beispiel:
Je trouve ça très intéressant.I find that very interesting.

Ceci and cela can be used with any verb including être. They are often used in written French, but in spoken French we prefer to use ça or ce/c'.

Example:
Je trouve ceci très intéressant. I find that very interesting.
Cela est bien dit.That's well said.