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The French expressions c'est and il est are extremely important impersonal expressions.

They can mean things like this is, that is, it is, they are, and even he / she is.

Examples of cest and il est in action:

Paris ? C'est magnifique ! Il est facile d'apprendre le franais. C'est une fille sympa, Lise. O est Paul ? Il est en retard.

Paris? It's magnificent! It's easy to learn French. Lise? She's a nice girl. Where's Paul? He's late.

When talking about specific people, things, or ideas, c'est and il est may change their forms. C'est becomes ce sont when followed by a plural noun. Il est becomes elle est, ils sont, or elles sont, as appropriate depending on the gender and number of the noun that it is replacing or modifying.
Ce sont des Franais ? Non, des Italiens. Voici Alice - elle est professeur.

Are they French? No, Italian.

This is Alice - she's a teacher.

Despite their similar meanings, the expressions c'est and il est are not interchangeable - there are rules for using each one.

Il est can be followed by a(n)

Unmodified* noun of profession, religion, or nationality (*no article, adjective, or other modifier)
Voici mon frre - il est mdecin. Il est catholique.

This is my brother - he's a doctor. He's a Catholic.

Il est can be followed by a(n)

Adjective, usually referring to a person


Tu as parl au prof ? Est-il intelligent ?

You talked to the teacher? Is he smart? This girl (she) is very kind.

Cette fille, elle est trs gentille.

Il est can be followed by a(n)

Prepositional phrase
O est Luc ? Il est la banque.

Where is Luc? He's at the bank.

Nos voisins, ils sont d'Irelande.

Our neighbors (they) are from Ireland.

Il est can be followed by a(n)

Adverb
Quelle heure est-il ? Il est tard. O est Jean ? Il est ici.

What time is it? It's late. Where is Jean? He's here.

C'est is used with

Modified nouns (article and/or adjective + noun)


Tu vois cet homme-l ? C'est mon pre. C'est la vie ! C'est une trs bonne ide. C'est une vraie histoire.

You see that man? That's my father. That's life! It's a very good idea.

It's a true story.

C'est is used with Adjectives that describe the general situation or something already mentioned or implied in the conversation
- Tu as vu ce film ? - Oui, c'est incroyable !

- Have you seen this movie? - Yes, it's incredible!

C'est compltement fou !

That's utterly insane!

C'est is used with

Impersonal expressions
C'est important faire. C'est difficile comprendre.

It's important to do.

It's hard to understand.

C'est is used with

Names
Qui est-ce ? C'est Luc. C'est Pierre qui a menti.

Who is it/that? It's Luc. Pierre is the one who lied.

C'est is used with

Stressed pronouns
C'est moi qui t'ai dit la verit. C'est nous qui avons dcid.

I'm the one who told you the truth. We're the ones who decided.

C'est is used with

Modified adverbs
C'est trop tard. C'est par ici. C'est trs loin.

It's too late. It's over here. It's very far.

The following table summarizes the different things that can be used after each of the expressions cest and il est.

IL EST Adjective describing a person Il est fort, cet homme. vs

C'EST Adjective describing a situation J'entends sa voix, c'est bizarre.

(That man is strong.)


Elle est intelligente.

(I hear his voice, it's weird.)


(That's normal!)
C'est normal !

(She is smart.)

Unmodified adverb Il est tard. Elles sont ici.

vs

(It's late.)

Modified adverb C'est trop tard. C'est trs loin d'ici. Modified noun C'est un avocat. C'est une bonne actrice.

(It's too late.)

(They are here)


Unmodified noun Il est avocat. Elle est actrice. vs

(It's very far from here.)

(He's a lawyer.)

(He's a lawyer.)

(She's an actress.)
Prepositional phrase (people) Il est la banque. vs

(She's a good actress.)

(He's at the bank.)


Elle est en France.

Proper name C'est Luc. (That's Luc.) Stressed pronoun C'est moi. (That's me.)

(She's in France.)

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