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French Articles

How to use demonstratives in French?

By: Céline Bateman-Paris Wed May 15 2024
Adjectives, Pronouns

You can use French demonstratives to point out an object or person. Like their English equivalents, “this,” “that,” “these,” “those,” French demonstratives can either be used before a noun (as an adjective), or they can replace a noun (like a pronoun). However, in French, demonstratives must also agree with the noun they modify or replace in both number and gender!

  • The demonstrative adjectives ce, cet, cette, and ces correspond to “this, that, these, those” in English. They come before a noun to designate someone or something that is around.

    Regarde cette voiture !

    Look at this car!

  • The demonstrative pronouns celui, celle, ceux, and celles correspond to “the one” and “the ones” in English. They substitute a noun (something or someone) mentioned before.

    Tu as vu ce film? Celui avec Marion Cotillard ?

    Have you seen this movie? The one with Marion Cotillard?

  • The indefinite demonstrative pronouns ce, ça, and ceci correspond to “it,” “this,” and “that” in English and stand for an idea or something non-specific.

    Ça marche !

    That works!

For example, have you ever wondered why you’d say cet été(this summer) but cette année(this year) in French? Or do you find it tricky to choose between ce(this, it), ceux(these, those), or celui(the one)?

Growing up, I loved watching Friends and, if you ever watch this series in France, keep in mind it is dubbed in French and all episodes are entitled "Celui qui..." For example, the very first episode was “Celui qui déménage”(The one where Monica gets a roommate).

Table of Contents

    What are demonstrative adjectives in French?

    The demonstrative adjectives in French are ce, cet, cette, and ces; they come before the noun and are used to point out an object or person that is near/around the speaker. They are the equivalent of the English “this/these.” Like in English, demonstrative adjectives agree with the French noun in number, but they also agree in gender in French as well.


    ce + consonant

    ce jardin

    this garden

    cet + vowel or mute h

    cet arbre

    this tree



    cette fleur

    this flower

    masculine or


    ces arbres et ces fleurs

    these trees and these flowers

    → Get practicing with this exercise!

    By adding -ci(here) or -là(there) to a noun, you can become more specific about how close (with -ci) or far (with -là) someone or something is.

    Tu aimes cette chemise-ci?

    Do you like this shirt here?

    Ou tu préfères cette chemise-?

    Or do you prefer that shirt there?

    Now that you know which demonstrative adjective to use, let’s have a look at the demonstrative pronouns! ↴

    What are demonstrative pronouns in French?

    The French demonstrative pronouns are celui, celle, ceux, and celles and they replace a noun that has been mentioned before. Using demonstrative pronouns enables you to avoid repetition. Have a look at this short conversation over texts:

    • Bon, on loue quelle maison ? La maison avec la piscine ou la maison dans la montagne ?

      So, which house should we rent? The house with a swimming pool or the house in the mountains?

    • La maison avec la piscine !

      The house with the swimming pool!

    • Je suis d’accord ! Et tu préfères cette maison-ci ou cette maison-là?

      I agree! Would you rather rent this house or that house?

    Isn't it tedious to read maison, maison, maison, over and over again? Well, a demonstrative pronoun would help here! Do you know which one? It needs to be feminine and singular → So, it’s celle!

    • Use the demonstrative pronouns celui, celle, ceux, and celles to express "the one," "the ones".


      Demonstrative pronouns don’t always substitute a noun that was used before. It can stand for something obvious in the context.

      Ceux qui ont un billet coupe-file peuvent passer en premier.

      Those with a skip-the-line ticket can go first.

      ↳ here, ceux could stand for people, customers, travelers, etc.
      • Celui and ceux replace masculine nouns. Celui replaces singular words, while ceux replaces plural ones.

        • Tu vas acheter un livre ?

          Are you going to buy a book?

        • Non, il n’y a pas celui (= le livre) que je cherche.

          No, there isn’t the one I’m looking for.

      • Celle and celles replace feminine nouns. Celle replaces singular words while celles replaces plural ones.

        • C’est la robe que tu as achetée samedi ?

          Is it the dress you bought on Saturday?

        • Non, c’est celle (= la robe) que j’ai eue pour mon anniversaire

          No, it’s the one I got for my birthday.

      • → Practice with this exercise.


      Watch out for this common mistake!

      Il qui est américain ?

      He who is American?

      Celui qui est américain ?

      The one who is American?

    • Use celui de, celle de, ceux de, or celles de to express possession.

      By simply adding the preposition de after demonstrative pronouns, you show possession.

      • C’est ta voiture ?!

        Is it your car?!

      • Non, c’est celle de mon voisin.

        No, it is my neighbor’s.

        lit. It is the that of my neighbor.

      • Ce sont les enfants d’Audrey ?

        Are they Audrey’s kids?

      • Non, ce sont ceux de Justine !

        No, they are Justine’s.

        lit. No, they are those of Justine.


      Note that you must add -ci and -là to celui/ceux, celle/celles when they are not in a relative clause introduced by qui or que(the one(s) which), or when they don't express possession.

      J’aime celui, et toi ? → J’aime celui-là, et toi ?

      I like this one, what about you?

      Tu veux qu’on prenne ceux, et toi ? → Tu veux qu’on prenne ceux-là ?

      Should we take these ones?

    • Use a pronoun + -ci and -là to express distance

      Adding -ci(here) to a demonstrative pronoun designates something or someone near you while -là(there) is for something or someone a bit further.

      • Tu préfères quel pull ?

        Which sweater do you prefer?

      • Celui-ci parce qu’il est doux.

        This one here because it’s soft.

      • Pas celui- avec la capuche ?

        Not this one there with the hood?


      Note that adding -là can sound derogatory.

      Elle est folle celle-!

      That woman is nuts!


      Ever wondered what the difference between voici(here is) and voilà(there is) was?

      • Give a gift to your friend and say "Voilà mon cadeau."(There, this is my gift.)

      • Tell your friend "Voici mon cadeau."(Here, this is my gift.) and then, give the gift!

      🪄 Ta-dah!

    What are indefinite demonstrative pronouns in French?

    The indefinite demonstrative pronouns in French are ce, ceci, cela, and ça. Rather than substituting something specific, they stand for an idea, a situation, or something non-specific. They correspond to the English “it, this, that,” and they can be used as subjects or objects of the sentence. The indefinite demonstrative pronouns are used slightly differently depending on which verb they are used with. With the verb être, only ce can be used, taking the form c'est or ce sont(it is, here is/are). With all other verbs, you will use ceci, cela, or ça. Let’s see how to use indefinite demonstrative pronouns!

    How to use the French indefinite demonstrative ‘ce’ with ‘être’?

    Use the French indefinite demonstrative pronoun ce to make introductions and to express general ideas. We have seen earlier that ce can also be a demonstrative adjective when followed by a noun. In this case, as a pronoun, ce works to stand for something conceptual or non-specific. As a pronoun, ce can only be used with the verb être! And, remember, this is also the only indefinite demonstrative pronoun that can be used with être. Let's take a look:

    To introduce something or someone: c’est and ce sont (it is, here is/are)

    Use ce to introduce someone or something. If you are referring to something singular, ce will become c' in front of the third person singular form of être: est. With plurals, ce is used with sont:

    c’est + singular

    he/she is or this/that is

    C’est mon film préféré.

    That’s my favorite movie.

    ce sont + plural

    they are or these/those are

    Ce sont mes chiens.

    These are my dogs.


    If you want to sound like a true French speaker, you can use c'est with plurals and say, C’est mes chiens.” This is more informal, but it is a good way to blend in with native speakers!


    Watch out for this common mistake!

    Il est mon cousin ?

    Is this my cousin?

    lit. Is he my cousin?

    C’est mon cousin ?

    Is this my cousin?

    If you’d like to learn more about the difference between c'est and il est in French, take a look at our other post!

    To express a general idea

    Here, we’ll see that ce again used with être, stands for a general idea, a concept, or something you are pointing at.

    C’est génial !

    It’s awesome!

    ↳The context will determine what c' stands for.

    You can also use ce and c' when you want to highlight or insist on something.

    C’est génial ce truc !

    That thing is awesome!

    lit. It’s amazing, that thing.

    C' stands for the noun ce truc(that thing). You could simply say: Ce truc est génial, but you sound more enthusiastic by using the first structure.

    C’est sympa que tu sois là !

    It’s cool you’re here!

    lit. It's cool that you are here.

    C' stands for the clause que tu sois là(that you are here).

    Watch out for this common mistake!

    Ça est beau !

    It's beautiful!

    lit. It is beautiful!

    C’est beau !

    It's beautiful!

    Remember, only ce can be used with être!

    How to use the French indefinite demonstratives ‘cela,’ ‘ça,’ and ‘ceci’?

    Just like ce, the indefinite demonstrative pronouns cela, ça, and ceci also stand for an idea or something not specific and are used with verbs that are not être. Unlike English, they are ever so slightly different, but generally interchangeable.

    cela (formal)
    ça (informal)

    that, it


    this, it

    Can you make out which words they come from?!

    Ce + là → cela ça

    Ce + ci → ceci


    As I said, ceci, cela, and ça are mostly considered interchangeable. Note that French speakers use ça much more often. Probably 90 percent of the time, actually! Ceci and cela are more for written French and can sound a bit posh or snobby when speaking!

    • Cela, ça, and ceci used as subjects

      These indefinite demonstrative pronouns can be used as subjects of a sentence:

      Tout ceci a l’air intéressant.

      It all sounds interesting.

      Ça m’écœure.

      It is sickening for me.

    • Cela, ça and ceci used as objects

      Or, the demonstratives can also be used as objects of the sentence. Ceci, cela, and ça can stand for things but can’t replace a person:

      Tu peux prendre ceci s’il te plaît ?

      Can you grab this please?

      Donne-leur ça.

      Give them this.


      Watch out for this common mistake!

      Ce me plaît.

      I like that.

      Ça me plaît.

      I like that.

      Remember, when the verb is not être, ce cannot be used!

    Let’s review what we have learned!

    In brief: Top tips for French demonstratives

    When using demonstratives in French, keep the following tips in mind:

    • Ce, cet (m.), cette (f.), ces (plural) + a noun refer to someone or something that is around. They are the equivalent to: "this, that, those."

    • Celui/ceux (m.) and celle/celles (f.) substitute someone or something that has been mentioned before.

    • You can add -ci(here) and -là(there) after a noun or a pronoun to specify if they are near or far.

    • C’est + singular noun and ce sont + plural noun introduce things and people. They also stand for an idea determined by a context.

    • Basically, ça = cela = ceci(this, it). They are used as a subject or an object with any verb other than être; ça is the most used of all three.

    • Use ce + être; ce cannot be used with other verbs.

    Ready to give it a go? Check out our exercises to practice French demonstrative adjectives and pronouns. Allons-y !

    Downloadable Resources

    Elevate your language-learning journey to new heights with the following downloadable resources.

    How to use demonstratives in French~Activities

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