French Demonstrative Adjectives: Adjectifs Démonstratifs

Learn the French words for this, that, these, and those.

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The French demonstrative adjectives—or adjectifs démonstratifs—are words used in place of articles to indicate a specific noun. In French, as well as in English, a demonstrative adjective is a determiner that points to a particular noun or to the noun it replaces. There are four demonstratives in French and English: the "near" demonstratives, this and these, and the "far" demonstratives, that and those.

This and that are singular, while these and those are plural.

In French, things get a little trickier. As in English, French, demonstrative adjectives must agree in number with the noun they modify, but they must also agree in gender. Once you've determined the number and gender of a noun in French, you can choose the correct demonstrative adjective form to use.

Masculine Singular

Ce is the masculine singular demonstrative adjective in French. The table below shows two examples of the correct use of ce in a sentence, followed by the English translation.

Ce: Masculine Singular

English Translation

Ce prof parle trop.

This (That) teacher talks too much.

J'aime ce livre.

I like this (that) book.

Ce becomes cet in front of a masculine noun that begins with a vowel or mute h.

Cet: Masculine Singular

English Translation

Cet homme est sympa.

This (That) man is nice.

Je connais cet endroit.

I know this (that) place.

Feminine Singular

Cette is feminine singular. These examples show how to use cette in a sentence, followed by the English translation.

Cette: Feminine Singular

Engish Translation

Cette idée est intéressante.

This (That) idea is interesting.

Je veux parler à cette fille

I want to talk to this (that) girl.

Masculine or Feminine Plural

Interestingly, ces is the plural demonstrative adjective for both feminine and masculine nouns.

To put it another way, ces is the only plural demonstrative adjective: "Cettes" does not exist.

Ces: Masculine or Feminine Plural

English Translation

Ces livres sont stupides.

These (Those) books are stupid.

Je cherche ces femmes.

I'm looking for these (those) women.

Use the Suffixes

The singular demonstrative adjectives ce, cet, and cette can all mean "this" or "that." Your listener can usually tell by the context which you mean, but if you want to stress one or the other, you can use the suffixes -ci (here) and -là (there), as the following examples demonstrate:

Ce, Cet, Cette

English Translation

   Ce prof-ci parle trop.

This teacher talks too much.

   Ce prof-là est sympa.

 That teacher is nice.

   Cet étudiant-ci comprend.

This student understands.

   Cette fille-là est perdue.

 That girl is lost.

Likewise, ces can mean "these" or "those," and again you can use the suffixes to be more explicit:

Ces

English Translation

Je veux regarder ces livres-là.

I want to look at those books.

Je préfère ces pommes-ci.

I prefer these apples.

Ces fleurs-ci sont plus jolies que ces fleurs-là.

These flowers are prettier than those flowers.

No Contractions

The demonstrative adjective ce does not contract: In front of a vowel, it changes to cet.

So c' in the expression c'est is not a demonstrative adjective: It is an indefinite demonstrative pronoun. Indefinite demonstrative pronouns can refer to something abstract, like an idea or a situation, or to something indicated but unnamed. Some examples are:

C’est: Indefinite Demonstrative Pronoun

English Translation

C'est une bonne idée!

That's a good idea!

C'est triste de perdre un ami.

It's sad to lose a friend.

C'est la vie.

That’s life.

Tips and Hints

Despite the myriad rules, determining the correct demonstrative adjective to use in French is really not as difficult as it seems. There are only four possibilities:  ce for the masculine singular before a noun; cet for the masculine singular before a vowel; cette for the feminine singular, and ​ ces for all plural forms, as the following table shows:

English Masculine Masculine Before a Vowel Feminine 
this, that   ce   cet   cette
these, those    ces   ces   ces

Since the possibilities for French demonstrative adjectives are so limited, the real key to understanding how to use these important words is to learn the gender and number of French nouns. Indeed, it is very important to learn a noun's gender and number because articles, some pronouns, some verbs, and, of course, demonstrative adjectives, have to agree with nouns. And therein lies the real work if you seek to master the French language.

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Lawless, Laura K. "French Demonstrative Adjectives: Adjectifs Démonstratifs." ThoughtCo, Feb. 5, 2018, thoughtco.com/french-demonstrative-adjectives-1368790. Lawless, Laura K. (2018, February 5). French Demonstrative Adjectives: Adjectifs Démonstratifs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-demonstrative-adjectives-1368790 Lawless, Laura K. "French Demonstrative Adjectives: Adjectifs Démonstratifs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-demonstrative-adjectives-1368790 (accessed February 25, 2018).