Guide to French Demonstrative Adjectives

Learn more about demonstrative adjectives in French and how to use them.

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French demonstrative adjectives or les adjectifs démonstratifs are determiners used to point out one or more specific nouns. Like other adjectives, they must agree with the noun in terms of both quantity and gender.

In English, the demonstrative adjectives are “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.” They are used to describe the specific position of something or someone in space and time.

There are only four French demonstrative adjectives, so they are easy to remember. They are ce, cette, cet, and ces.

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French demonstrative adjectives

Masculine Feminine Beginning with vowel (masculine only) Meaning
Singular ce cette cet this/that
Plural ces ces - these/those

Let’s look at some examples:

  • ce vélo (this/that bicycle)
  • ce bâtiment (this/that building)
  • cet œuf (this/that egg)
  • cet étudiant (this/that student)
  • cette rue (this/that street)
  • cette fenêtre (this/that window)
  • ces raisins (these/those grapes)

With singular masculine and feminine nouns, the usage of les adjectifs démonstratifs is pretty straightforward. Ce is used with masculine singular nouns and cette is used with feminine singular nouns.

Now, with other grammar rules, a specific adjective or article is used with nouns starting with a vowel. But with demonstrative adjectives, cet is used only for masculine singular nouns beginning with a vowel or h muet (silent h).

For plural nouns, ces is used for plural masculine and feminine nouns, whether they begin with a vowel or not.

For example:

  • J'adorais ce livre quand j'étais enfant. (I loved this book as a child.)
  • Il veut acheter cette voiture de sport bleue. (He wants to get that blue sports car.)
  • Cet homme est fou. (This man is crazy.)

To continue to master French, expanding on your vocabulary is a great way to memorize genders and pick out the appropriate corresponding adjective or article. Here are 99 French words in English for you to browse!

Why we use French demonstrative adjectives

The answer is simple. Les adjectifs démonstratifs are used to designate one or several specific persons or things.

Let’s look at some examples to put this into perspective:

  • Cette rue est très étroite. (This street is very narrow.)
  • Ces fruits sont frais, mais ces fruits ne le sont pas. (These fruits are fresh but those fruits are not.)

This should explain more clearly why these adjectives are used.

What do French demonstrative adjectives mean?

Do demonstrative adjectives in French mean this/that or these/those? There is no differentiation between any of them. So no matter what you want to say, you can use adjectifs démonstratifs to indicate both this and that as well as these and those.

The meaning that these adjectives take on, entirely depends on the context and structure of the sentences that they are in.

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How to use more specific demonstrative adjectives in French

While rarely used in written French, and even less so in spoken French, if you want to be specific and make it clearer what you are talking about, you can add the suffixes –ci (here) and –là (there).

The suffix –ci is used for something that is close to you, while –là is used for something that is far away.

To do this, here is the format you need to follow:

  • adjectif démonstratif + noun + –ci
  • adjectif démonstratif + noun + –là

For example:

  • Cet enfant-ci est très hyperactif. (This child is very hyper.)
  • Ce magasin-là est le plus grand ici. (That store is the biggest one here.)

Hopefully, this makes more sense now. Let’s continue with some exceptions!

In addition to demonstrative adjectives there are other French exceptions to make note of, especially when you travel! Okay, while not exactly exceptions, some words are used very differently in different French-speaking countries. Discover these differences from Martinique to Montreal: French around the world.

Wrapping up

As explained in this article, les adjectifs démonstratifs are limited in number and easy to understand and use. As with all other types of adjectives and articles, the easiest way to understand which adjective to use and where, is by identifying the gender and quantity of the noun that it is modifying.

Regular practice, contextual understanding, and exposure to authentic French usage will be key in your journey towards becoming a proficient French speaker. Keep up the great work!

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