C'est un garçon !
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Image courtesy of my nephew, the little Con Man

Essential French Expression

Meaning this is, it is…
Register normal, informal
Pronunciation [seh]
IPA   [sɛ]

Notes: C’est, literally "this is," is the required contraction of ce + est. It’s one of the most important French expressions with a few possible meanings:

  • this is
  • that it
  • it is
  • he/she is
  • the one (in the construction c’est ___ qui)

  In front of a plural noun, c’est becomes ce sont – or, at least, it’s supposed to. In reality, many people say c’est anyway.

  • these are
  • those are
  • they are
  • the ones (in the construction ce sont ___ qui)

Using c’est / ce sont

C’est and ce sont can be used in front of

1) Nouns modified by an article and/or adjective.

C’est un projet intéressant.   It’s an interesting project.
C’est (Ce sont) nos vélos.   These are our bikes.

  C’est must also be used with people in this construction.

C’est un garçon !   It’s a boy!
Oui, je connais Philippe. C’est mon jardinier.   Yes, I know Philippe. He’s my gardener.

2) Names

– C’est qui à l’appareil ?
– C’est Béatrice.
  – Who’s calling?
– It’s Béatrice.
C’est Françoise qui a trouvé la solution.   It was Françoise who found the solution, Françoise is the one who found the solution.

3) Stressed pronouns

– C’est qui à l’appareil ?
– C’est moi.
  – Who’s calling?
– It’s me.
C’est (Ce sont) elles qui veulent partir.   They’re the ones who want to leave.

  C’est à + noun or stressed pronoun indicates possession.

Using c’est

Only c’est can be used in these constructions:

1) Dates and calendar words

Aujourd’hui, c’est le 1er mai.   Today is May 1st.
La prochaine sortie, c’est mardi.   The next outing is on Tuesday.
C’est en août.   It’s in August.

2) Adjectives that describe either something already mentioned or a general idea.*

Visite la Guadeloupe, c’est magnifique.   Visit Guadeloupe, it’s magnificent.
C’est bizarre !   That’s weird!

* Note that the adjective is always invariable.

3) Interrogative adverbs

C’est can introduce an explanation.

C’est pourquoi je suis parti.   That’s why I left.
C’est comment il l’a fait.   That’s how he did it.

Synonym: voilà

4) Impersonal expressions

C’est is informal when used in impersonal expressions.

C’est difficile d’étudier ici.   It’s difficult to study here.
C’est fort probable que le voyage va être annulé.   It’s very likely that the trip will be cancelled.

5) C’est is also used informally after abstract subjects – see Informal pronouns, "Extra c’est."

Beyond the present

C’est can be used in any tense and mood, just conjugate être accordingly.

C’était très intéressant.   It was very interesting.
Il faut que ce soit parfait.   It has to be perfect.
J’espère que ce sera facile.   I hope it will be easy.

 Related expressions

Related lessons

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C'est - French expression
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