Demonstrative pronouns in French

Les pronoms démonstratifs en français

Salut, and welcome to our lesson about French demonstrative pronouns at Language Easy!

Allez, on y va !

What are demonstrative pronouns in French ?

Qu’est-ce que les pronoms démonstratifs en français ?

Demonstrative pronouns (les pronoms démonstratifs) replace nouns in a sentence as would a personal pronoun, but instead or referring to a previous use of the noun in the text, they refer to something by :

  • stating an information that will allow to recognize it
  • pointing at it directly with the help of the context (or the finger)

Demonstrative pronouns in French can also refer to a whole sentence or an idea previously expressed.

By giving information :

  • Donne-moi celui qui est bleu.
    Give me the one that is blue.

By pointing out :

  • Veux tu celui-ci ou celui-là ?
    Do you want this one or that one?

Referring to a whole sentence or idea :

  • Je regarderai ça demain.
    I will look into this tomorrow.

Celui / ceux, celle / celles

Celui / ceux, celle / celles

These four French demonstrative pronouns can replace nouns introduced by the four corresponding demonstrative adjectives (as shown in the following table), but they can also replace any nominal group.

They can never be used alone, because the purpose of using a demonstrative pronoun is to point something out ; therefore there must be a complement for that purpose.

So they must always be followed by :

  • a participle
  • a relative proposition
  • a complement introduced by the preposition de
  • the suffix -ci or -là (see below : composed form)
Adjective Pronoun
singular m. ce, cet celui
singular f. cette celle
plural m. ces ceux
plural f. cettes celles

Let’s study examples derived from the original sentence :

  • je préfère la chanson de Georges Brassens aux chansons de Jacques Brel. (I prefer G.Brassens’s song to J.Brel’s)

In blue are the two nominal groups that we will replace by pronouns.

With a past participle :

  • Je préfère celle chantée par Georges Brassens à celles étant de Jacques Brel.

With a relative proposition :

  • Je préfère celle que chante Georges Brassens à celles qui sont chantée par Jacques Brel.

With the preposition de :

  • Je préfère celle de Georges Brassens à celles de Jacques Brel.

At the compound form :

  • Je préfère celle-ci à celles-là.

Ce, ceci, cela, ça

ce, ceci, cela, ça

The pronoun ça is used to replace a whole sentence or an idea previously expressed. Used as a subject before the verb être, it becomes ce.

A very common usage is the expression “c’est”, simply used when saying what something is (note the contraction of the pronoun ce in  before the letter “e”).

The forms ceci and cela can also be used at will instead of ça and ce, although it’s not preferred in spoken language.

Examples :

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est ? C’est un oiseau. Ceci est un oiseau.
    What is it ? It’s a bird.
  • Ce sera facile.
    It will be easy
  • Que manges-tu ? Ça.
    What are you eating ? This.
  • Tu penses vraiment cela ?
    Do you really think that ?

The pronoun ce can be also used before a relative proposition when describing an unknown subject:

  • J’aime ce que tu fais.
    I like what you’re doing. (lit. that which you are doing)
  • Je sais ce dont tu es fier.
    I know what you’re proud of. (lit. that of which you´re proud of)

Usage of -ci VS -là

L’usage des formes composées

The demonstrative pronouns ceci, celui-ci, celle-ci, ceux-ci, celles-ci are used with the idea of proximity, while cela, celui-là, celle-là, ceux-là, celles-là point to something far away.

When we refer to elements of a previous enumeration, the pronouns in –ci refer to the last element enumerated, which is the closest in the sentence (‘geographically”).

Examples :
  • Celui-ci est pour moi, celui-là est pour toi.
    This one is for me, that one is for you.
  • Qu’est-ce que ceci ?
    What is this? (pointing out close by)
  • Qu’est-ce que cela ?
    What is that? (pointing out over there)

Refering to an enumeration :

  • Le renard et la poule sont deux animaux différents, celle-ci est est un oiseau, celui-là est un mammifère.

Did you know ?

Le saviez-vous ?

Demonstrative pronouns in French can refer to something close (ceci) or something far away (cela), but a lot of other languages distinguish in a more specific way. In Nandi for example, but also closer to us in spanish, portuguese, greek, there are three distinctions :

  1. near me
  2. near you
  3. away from me and you

In French, if we want to design something very far away, we could use the formation “celui là-bas”. But it is not the pronoun celui-là followed by the word bas, but instead the pronoun celui followed by the expression là-bas (over there). This is why we can´t speak of a grammatical distinction.

What’s next?

C’est quoi, la suite ?

Et voilà, we reached the end of our lessons about French demonstrative pronouns.

Allez, à bientôt !

Werbung French Language-online