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How to speak French

Understanding Demonstrative Adjectives in French

There are several different ways you can try to describe things in languages. You can discuss color, size, age, and condition. You can also classify an object by ownership. When learning French, differentiating between all of the ways to speak about something while trying to perfect your pronunciation can feel like information overload.

However, the important thing is to take things slow, continue practicing, and get additional help when you need it. Whether you’re trying to grow your vocabulary, strengthen your inner conversationalist, or obtain full French fluency, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the four demonstrative adjectives in French.

In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know about French demonstrative adjectives so you can fine tune your communication skills and continue towards fluency.

What Are Demonstrative Adjectives in French?

French demonstrative adjectives, or adjectifs démonstratifs, are used when you want to point out one or more specific nouns in conversation. They replace the article when identifying any given noun in conversation. Their English equivalents are this, that, these and those. As with English, French demonstrative adjectives can often be distinguished based on distance. This and these are used for nearby objects, where that and those are used to describe things further away.

Demonstrative adjectives in French follow the same rules as other French adjectives in that they must match the gender and number of the noun they’re specifying. All in all, there are four French demonstrative adjectives, as outlined in the table below:

Masculine Demonstrative Adjective in Frenchceces
Masculine Demonstrative Adjective in French + a vowecetces
Feminine Demonstrative Adjective in Frenchcetteces

As you can see in the table, when a masculine demonstrative adjective is used in French with a noun or adjective that starts with a vowel, you’ll need to use a different form. This is to avoid difficulties in both pronunciation and understanding. To further strengthen your pronunciation during conversation, don’t forget to practice your French alphabet regularly. The use of cet should only be used when the French demonstrative pronoun precedes words with a vowel or an h. You can see how the different masculine, feminine, and plural demonstrative adjectives are used in the following examples:

  • ce sac à dos — this/that backpack
  • ce chiot — this/that puppy
  • cet homme — this/that man
  • cet unique garçon — this/that unique boy
  • cette maison — this/that house
  • cette chaise — this/that chair
  • ces chiots — these/those puppies
  • ces hommes — these/those men
  • ces maisons — these/those houses

How to Use Demonstrative Adjectives in French?

Demonstrative adjectives in French are always used in place of an article, never in addition to one. This means removing the “the” before the noun and replacing it with any of the four French demonstrative adjectives, depending on gender and number. To help you practice mastering your use of demonstrative adjectives, possessive adjectives in French, and other elements of this beautiful language, download Tandem and match with a native speaker today. It’s a great way to practice different parts of speech, from reflexive verbs in French to demonstrative adjectives and beyond.

Another rule of using French demonstrative adjectives is that they’re always placed directly in front of a noun or an adjective and a noun. The French adjective list is long, but demonstrative adjectives will always come before simple descriptive adjectives. For example:

  • ce grand arbre est vert — this big tree is green
  • cet arbre est vert — this tree is green

Although the French demonstrative adjectives used here change due to the preceding word, the meaning of the sentence doesn’t change too much.

Clarifying French Demonstrative Adjectives: This or That? These or Those?

The French demonstrative adjectives themselves provide no details on whether the speaker is referring to this or that, these or those. Although some sentences don’t require clarification, when they do, you’ll need to attach an additional suffix to the noun. When you want to say either “this” or “these,” you’ll need to attach the suffix -ci to the end of the noun. When you want to say either “that” or “those,” you’ll need to attach the suffix -là to the end of the noun. For example:

  • cette chaise-ci est parfaite pour votre nouvelle maison — this chair is perfect for your new house
  • cette chaise-là est confortable — that chair is comfortable
  • cette couleur-ci n'est pas agréable — this color is not nice
  • cette couleur-là te va à merveille — that color looks great on you
  • ce prof-là parle trop — that teacher talks too much
  • ce prof-ci est sympa — this teacher is nice

You may see this omitted from the spoken language often, as clarifying between this and that or these and those doesn’t always matter. However, it’s a good practice to be aware of, just in case you find yourself in a conversation that uses it. When paired with the proper French verb conjugation, you’ll be able to put together sentences that native speakers can easily understand.

Learning French can be difficult, especially when you try to master all of the different parts of speech at once. The best way to get the most out of your demonstrative adjectives in French is to partner with a native speaker and practice as much as possible. Luckily, you don’t have to travel all the way to France to do this. All you need to do is sign up for Tandem!

Tandem is a unique community filled with language learners around the world. We offer a personalized experience that helps our members practice with real people and real conversation, which can help you achieve real fluency. Using our innovative language app, all you need to do is match with a native French speaker and continue practicing your use of French demonstrative adjectives, verb conjugation, and more. All while discussing real-life situations that can help foster meaningful friendships. Play games with each other or exchange useful conversation to help you build your vocabulary and improve recall.

Tandem works to help our members develop a deeper understanding of language while improving fluency and building long-lasting friendships. All you need to do is sign up, match with a native speaker of your target language, and start communicating. To join our community and work on your fluency, sign up for Tandem today.

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