Just checking use of "ce" when I would expect "ils"

I have a short checklist of key points for our guests and one of the points is this …

Our dogs will tell you they are starving – they are liars and thieves! Please do not feed them and keep food, shoes, socks etc safe

Both Deepl and Google translate this as:

Nos chiens vous diront qu’ils sont affamés - ce sont des menteurs et des voleurs ! Merci de ne pas les nourrir et de garder en sécurité la nourriture, les chaussures, les chaussettes, etc.

I’m surprised that the second phrase is “ce sont des menteurs” I would have translated it as “ils sont des menteurs”

Because you are referring to particular dogs you can use “Ils” . If you were referring to dogs in general you use “Ce”. For example:

Les chiens volent la nourriture. Ce sont des voleurs.

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I think ce sont… is correct even though Sue is referring to specific dogs.

This link might help

I think Sue’s usage falls into the “C’est + determiner + noun” pattern, or maybe the “C’est +article + noun” pattern (in this case the article being “des” rather than un/e) - cf the “Ce sont des Français” example.

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ce sont = they are, these are, it is
ils sont = they are, they’re, they are a…
my money is on ce being more correct as also confirmed by billybutcher’s link.


Thanks @JaneJones but I think @billybutcher and @graham are right because I have used nouns to describe them. I guess if I had said “they are naughty” it would have been “Nos chiens vous diront qu’ils sont affamés - ils sont méchants.” - Just checked - it is!

Thanks guys. :grin:


I said “you can”, not “you must”…:slightly_smiling_face:. In modern french, like in other languages there can be some flexibility. So I often use what feels comfortable to me, and what I hear French people using.

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Ce sont is correct as it’s referring backwards to what you were referring to in the previous phrase - the dogs.

As in “cette” or “ce” often kind of meaning “the latter” kind of. Similar older traditional usage as in “cette nuit” meaning “last night”.

I think ce sont is both more correct and idiomatic.

Ils is not wrong it just introduces new information in a stronger way. The logical flow between the dogs claiming they are hungry and them being liars and thieves is actually stronger with ce sont than ils sont as ils sont is stronger and newer and could stand on its own as new information - so kind of interrupts the flow of logic between dogs claiming hunger and being liars/thieves. Ils sont made it 2 points whereas Ce sont referred back to the objects previously mentioned and kept it all as one

Shades and shades…Ce sont is funnier as it keeps the point all in one



@KarenLot is right. It’s meant to be funny. Thank you Karen for noticing. Maybe not everyone’s sense of humour, but it raises a smile with our guests. And enables me to make a point in a light-hearted way that they absolutely must not feed our dogs - either intentionally or by accident. If they do so I finish up with at least one and possibly both at the vets.

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which is not funny :wink:

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Please don’t use méchant for naughty referring to an animal (or indeed a person) a méchant creature isn’t just naughty, it is likely to bite you.


Thanks Vero - hence I guess why when we first arrived here and were out walking with our two elderly Airedales small children used to ask us “Ils sont méchants?” And we would reassure them they were not.

OH has told me that so many times, and still has to tell me off for saying pas méchant rather than gentil! One day I will remember…

Aaanyway, Sue, how could you call that sweet innocent face that of a liar and a thief? :astonished:
Is that one of them btw? :thinking:

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Yes. She’s Vita and totally adorable. She, like Bertie, is however a liar and a thief. Has been known to lift a fillet steak off the kitchen worktop. And as a result finished at the vets as she is allergic to beef. :roll_eyes:

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Oh dear. :roll_eyes:

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French Grammar is quite interesting and a lot more flexible than one would think. It is said that Boileau the greatest French grammarian’s dieing words were: " je m’en vais ou je m’en va, l’un et l’autre se dit ou se disent"

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Poor baby!