How do you know when to use “c’est” (this is) and “il est” (it is) in French?
Let me give you some tips so you don’t have to use the wrong expression again!
To help you know when to use the phrases “c’est” and “il est”, watch this video from my YouTube channel.
Don’t forget to put in any subtitles you want to make it easier to understand and read the transcript below!
“C’EST” OU “IL EST”?
Il est français.(He is French.)
C’est un Français qui vient de Paris. (He is a Frenchman who comes from Paris.)
It is a question you ask me often.
When to use “c’est” and when to use “il est”.
Stick with me to understand the difference between these two expressions.
The difference between “c’est” and “il est” in French
Welcome to Toast my French, my name is Morgane, and I am a certified French teacher.
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Today we are going to see a very common mistake: the use of “c’est” and “il est” in French.
First, why do students who learn French make this mistake when the French don’t?
It is often because there is no difference between these expressions, in your native language, or that it’s different.
But thanks to the rules that I am going to explain to you, you will no longer make mistakes!
Usually, we use “c’est” to identify something and “il est” to describe something.
“C’est” is the contraction of “ça + le verbe être” (it + the verb to be).
We use “c’est” to identify a person or thing.
It is always used with first names and pronouns:
For example :
Qui est-ce? (Who is it?)
C’est Pierre. (It’s Pierre.)
C’est Marie. (It’s Marie.)
C’est moi ! (It’s me!)
C’est nous ! (It’s us!)
We also use “c’est” with a name accompanied by a determinant such as “un chien” ( a dog), “un livre” (a book) or “une fille” (a girl):
C’est un chien. (It’s a dog.)
C’est un livre. (It’s a book.)
“C’est” does not change to the feminine.
It’s a girl.
Remember that in the plural, “c’est” becomes “ce sont”:
Ce sont des enfants. (They are children.)
“Il est” is simply the “verb êtres (to be) in the third person singular” (il / elle / on est) (he / she / we is/are).
“Il est” is used to describe a person or thing that we are talking about.
It is often used with adjectives:
C’est un chien. Il est jeune. (It’s a dog. He’s young.)
C’est un livre. Il est long (It’s a book. It is long.)
In the feminine, we have:
C’est une fille. Elle est belle. (It’s a girl. She is beautiful.)
And in the plural:
Ce sont des enfants. Ils sont gentils. (They are children. They’re nice.)
Don’t forget that in French you indicate your profession as an adjective:
Je suis professeure de français. (I am a French teacher.)
Il est étudiant. (He is a student.)
But be careful when talking about something general, we use “c’est” with the adjective!
For example :
C’est bon. (It’s good.)
C’est beau. (It’s beautiful.)
Or quite simply: C’est bien (It’s good)!
Remember the general rule “C’est + noun” and “il est + adjective”, and you will avoid a lot of mistakes!
For example, look at these 2 sentences:
…… serveur au restaurant des Champs-Élysées. (…… waiter at the Champs-Élysées restaurant.)
…… un serveur pas très aimable, mais très professionnel. (…… a waiter not very friendly, but very professional.)
It’s up to you to complete them!
The correct sentences are:
Il est serveur au restaurant des Champs-Élysées. (He is a waiter at the Champs-Élysées restaurant.)
C’est un serveur pas très aimable, mais très professionnel. (He is not a very friendly waiter, but very professional.)
Indeed, when the word “serveur” is all alone, it is like an adjective, used to describe someone in particular, so we use “il c’est”.
When the word “serveur” is with a determinant, it is a name used to identify the person, so we use “c’est”!
You can now use these 2 expressions more easily!
To check if you have understood correctly, write sentences in the comments, with “c’est” or “il est”!
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