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French Language – Demonstrative Pronouns Posted by on Jan 14, 2020 in Grammar, Language, Vocabulary

Pronouns are handy – they can save us from repeating the same nouns over and over again – and important – as you get deeper into language learning, knowing your pronouns will help you understand more … and sound more like a native! But pronouns can also be tricky. An especially tricky category of pronouns is les pronoms démonstratifs (demonstrative pronouns) which we’ll explore today.

You can explore other pronouns in French here. And you can read about demonstrative pronouns linguistic cousins, the demonstrative adjective, here.

Les pronoms démonstratifs are useful for answering the question “Which ______ ?” With one exception (see below) les pronoms démonstratifs, like all pronouns, agree in gender and number with the noun (or nouns) they are replacing (and like their cousins the adjectives do with the nouns they modify). As such, they come in masculin (masculine), féminin (feminine), singulier (singular), and pluriel (plural). They include:

 SINGULIERPLURIEL
MASCULINcelui
celui-ci
celui-là
ceux
ceux-ci
ceux-là
FEMININcelle
celle-ci
celle-là
celles
celles-ci
celles-là

The simple forms (celui, celle, ceux et celles) are used to identify a specific item or group of items from all the rest. As in:

J’aime bien ta chemise, mais je préfère celle que tu as mise hier.
I really like your shirt, but I like the one you wore yesterday better.

J’aime bien les histoires d’aventures, surtout celles écrites par Alexandre Dumas.
I like adventure stories, especially ones written by Alexandre Dumas.

– Où est-ce que tu as mis mon livre? – Lequel? – Celui que je lisais tout à l’heure?
Where did you put my book? – Which one? – The one I was reading earlier?

The formes composées (composed forms) replace items or groups of items entirely. Those ‘en -ci’ refer to things that are closer at hand (think ‘this’ in English) while those ‘en -là’ refer to things further away or secondary (think ‘that’ in English).1It can be helpful sometimes to think of the French words ici and là-bas.

[Au magasin] Dame: Est-ce que je peux essayer les chaussures rouges? Vendeuse: Celles-ci? Dame: [Indiquant de la main] Non, celles-là.
[At the store] Woman: Can I try on the red shoes? Saleswoman: These? Woman: [Pointing] No, those ones.

[Dans le cour] Surveillant: Mais quelle bazarre! Ils sont à qui tous ces vélos? [Garçon] Celui-ci est à moi, monsieur. Et celui-là est à Manu. Pour les autres, je ne sais pas.
[In the yard] Monitor: What a mess! Whose bikes are these? [Boy] This one is mine, sir. And that one is Manu’s. As for the rest, I don’t know.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


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