Demonstrative Pronouns

Introduction

Demonstrative pronouns are used to emphasise which thing (of multiple possibilities) you are talking about.

Beispiel

- Ce mouton est mignon.

- Lequel? Celui-ci ou celui-là?

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

Advertisement

Usage

  • We use celui, celle to specify one particular thing from a group.
    Example:
    Je parle de celui du milieu.I’m talking about the one in the middle.
  • In French, there are also compound forms: celui-ci, celle-ci, celui-là, celle-là. The forms ending in -ci indicate something that’s close to the speaker (here). The forms ending in -là indicate something that’s farther away from the speaker (there).
    Example:
    Lequel? Celui-ci ou celui-là?Which one? This one or that one?
  • Demonstrative pronouns also have adjective forms that 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.

Forms

persondemonstrative adjectivedemonstrative 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

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives (called l’adjectif démonstratif/le pronom démonstratif in French) always come directly before a noun (they function as an adjective modifying the noun).

Example:
Ce mouton est mignon.

We only use the masculine form cet when the noun begins with a vowel or a mute 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.

Le pronom démonstratif (demonstrative pronouns)

Demonstrative pronouns (also known as independent demonstrative pronouns) stand alone – they do not accompany a noun.

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 situations:

  • 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 Form

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

Example:
C'est intérressant. 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.