Indefinite Demonstrative Pronouns

Pronoms démonstratifs indéfinis

Indefinite demonstrative pronouns, also called invariable demonstrative pronouns or neuter demonstrative pronouns, do not agree with the nouns they replace in gender or number. The noun being replaced may be

  • Abstract, such as a situation or concept
  • Something unnamed or unspecific

There are four French indefinite demonstrative pronouns, but two of them are used far more than the others.

Ce

Ce can mean it, this, that, these, or those and is most commonly used with the verb être, in the expression c’est (plural: ce sont).

Par exemple…

C’est le moment ou jamais !   It’s now or never!
C’était dur à croire.   That was difficult to believe.
Ce sont mes couleurs préférées.   These are my favorite colors.

Ce can also be used with the verbs devoir and pouvoir + être.

Ce doit être important.   This must be important.
Ce pourrait être une mauvaise idée.   This might be a bad idea.

Formally, especially in writing, ce may be used without a verb.

Je suis allé au Japon, et ce en n’y connaissant personne.   I went to Japan (and this) without knowing anyone there.
Nous avons trouvé la solution, et pour ce nous avons été recompensés.   We found this solution, and for this we were rewarded.

 Remember that ce is also a demonstrative adjective.

Ceci and Cela

When followed directly by any other verb, or when devoir or pouvoir are followed by any verb other than être, the indefinite demonstrative pronoun is ceci or cela:

Ceci va être difficile à croire.   This is going to be difficult to believe.
Cela me rappelle un film que j’ai vu l’année dernière.   That reminds me of a movie I saw last year.
Cela doit figurer sur le bon de commande.   That should be on the order form.

Ceci and cela can also be direct objects and indirect objects.

S’il te plaît, mets ceci sur la table.   Please put this on the table.
J’ai pensé à cela hier.   I thought of that yesterday.

 Ceci is the contraction of ce + ici and means “this,” while cela is the contraction of ce + là and means “that.” That said, in reality two things tend to happen:

  1. Ceci is replaced by cela unless the distinction between “this” and “that” is important.
  2. Cela contracts to ça.

Ça

Other than in writing and formal speech, ceci and cela are usually replaced by ça.

Ça va être difficile à croire.   This is going to be difficult to believe.
Ça me rappelle un film que j’ai vu l’année dernière.   That reminds me of a movie I saw last year.
S’il te plaît, mets ça sur la table.   Please put this on the table.
J’ai pensé à ça hier.   I thought of that yesterday.

 Related lessons

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

French indefinite demonstrative pronouns


Think you've mastered 'Indefinite Demonstrative Pronouns'? Test yourself now...
Loading your Kwiz
Stay up to date with Lawless French!
Twitter Facebook Google+ Instagram Pinterest YouTube RSS Newsletter

Any Questions?

 Get help on the forum.
  
 

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.
       

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Comments or questions about this page?