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Learning French Demonstrative Pronouns

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 10/21/2012

Using Demonstrative Pronouns and Indefinite Demonstrative Pronouns is an important part of understanding French and speaking the language effectively. Take a look at this brief overview of these very useful parts of speech.

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    Demonstrative Pronouns

    Demonstrative pronouns make life easier. Let's suppose you were talking about a number of bacteria, say, for instance, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Haemophilus influenzae or Bacillus stearothermophilu. Think how long-winded you would be if, after the first mention, you kept repeating their proper names in every single sentence. It's much simpler to say 'this one' or 'that one' or 'these' or 'those.' These are demonstrative pronouns. They demonstrate/show/replace a noun that has been already mentioned in a sentence.

    So we have the following demonstrative pronouns in French -

    • Celui - This one, That one. (Masculine Singular)
    • Celle - This one, That one. (Feminine Singular)
    • Ceux - These, Those. (Masculine Plural)
    • Celles - These, Those. (Feminine Plural)
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    When to Use Them

    French demonstrative pronouns have the following features:

    • They replace an already-mentioned noun in a sentence.
    • They agree with the gender of the already-mentioned noun.
    • They agree with the number of the already-mentioned noun.
    • They cannot be used on their own.
    • They are used with a suffix. "-ci" means "here" and "-là" means "there".
    • They are used in prepositional phrases. 'De' is used to show possession or origin.
    • They are followed by a relative pronoun and a dependent clause.
    • French listeners can determine whether a speaker means Celui or Celle and Ceux or Celles by listening to the context and the appended suffix.
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    Examples With Suffixes

    1. Which dress should I chose? Should I take this one or that one?

    • Quelle robe devrais-je choisir? Devrais-je prendre celle-ci ou celle-là?

    Here, as you see, the feminine singular demonstrative pronoun has been used. The difference between the two forms of Celle - this one and that one - is shown by the addition of the suffixes "-ci" and "-là". "-ci" means "here" and "-là" means "there". So "celle-ci" is this one here and "celle-là" means that one there.

    2. Here are four different shades of white. Shall we chose these or those?

    • Voici quatre différentes nuances de blanc. Allons-nous choisi ceux-ci ou ceux-là?

    Here, as you see, the masculine plural demonstrative pronoun has been used. The difference between the two forms of Ceux - these and those - is shown by the addition of the suffixes "-ci" and "-là". "-ci" means "here" and "-là" means "there". So "ceux-ci" is these here and "ceux-là" means those there.

    3. Which flower do you want, this one or that one?

    • Quelle fleur veux-tu, celle-ci ou celle-là?

    The feminine singular demonstrative pronoun has been used here. The difference between the two forms of Celle - this one and that one - is shown by the addition of the suffixes "-ci" and "-là". "-ci" means "here" and "-là" means "there". So "celle-ci" is this one here and "celle-là" means that one there.

    4. I can't make up my mind about the red and green apples. Shall I buy these or those?

    • Je ne peux pas me résoudre à propos des pommes rouges et vertes. Dois-je acheter celles-ci ou celles-là?

    The feminine plural demonstrative pronoun has been used here. The difference between the two forms of Celles - these and those - is shown by the addition of the suffixes "-ci" and "-là". "-ci" means "here" and "-là" means "there". So "celles-ci" is those here and "celles-là" means those there.

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    Examples in Prepositional Phrases

    1. My friends are visiting, the one from Brazil and the one from Spain.

    • Mes amis visitent. Celui du Brésil et celui d'Espagne.

    2. I have two houses. The one in India has a mango orchard, and the one in Switzerland has an apple orchard.

    • J'ai deux maisons. Celle de l'Inde a un verger de manguiers, et celle de la Suisse dispose d'un verger de pommiers.
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    Examples Followed By a Relative Pronoun and a Dependent Clause

    1. Those who work will get rich.

    • Ceux qui travaillent va devenir riche.

    2. The one who wins gets the prize

    • Celle qui gagne obtient le prix.
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    Four Indefinite Demonstrative Pronouns

    • Ce - This, It. Used with the verb être. Can also be used without a verb.
    • Ceci - This here. A compound of ce (this) and ici (here). Used with être and other verbs that have an object pronoun before them. Not used often in spoken French.
    • Cela - That there. A compound of ce (this) and là (there). Used with être and other verbs that have an object pronoun before them.
    • Ça - That there. Used in informal speech instead of ceci or cela.
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    Features of Pronouns

    • They do not refer to anything specific or anyone specific.
    • They refer to something or someone.
    • They do not have to agree with any noun gender.
    • They do not have to agree with any noun number.
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    Examples

    1. This is something I would like. It is interesting.

    • C'est quelque chose que je voudrais. C'est intéressant.

    2. This dog here is mine.

    • Ce chien ici est le mien.

    3. He likes that.

    • Il aime cela.

    4. It's okay.

    • Ça va.

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