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ce cet cette et ces in french

28 Oct 2013

2013-10-28 22:16:37 -0500

I would've put "en français" in the title, but given that Ghost is still beta, I don't want to break the system because someone never thought about all of the unicode characters.

So Duolingo is indeed awesome, but one of its huge failings is always on grammer explanation. Basically, there often is none.

To be honest, for ce/cet/cette/ces, maybe there was a popover hint at one point, but it is long gone now.

As a fallback, the user discussions on certain questions can be quite helpful, but you only get to see those once you've already missed the answer. Furthermore, on the ipad/iphone, they're completely inaccessible.

So I was left to my own devices to discover what all of these ce words meant. I thought I had a handle on them until I'd put ce where cet needed to be. Well, in retrospect, I think I know what the problem is.

ce / cet / cette / ces

First, all of these words are variation of this, that, those, and these. I kind of like that in French they don't seem to make the distinction, because in Spanish, I always get est[a|e|o] and es[a|e|o] screwed up.

ce / cet

Simply, these are used with singular masculine nouns. So which one do you use? Like so many things in French, it's all about the sound. French doesn't seem to like to pair an ending vowel on one word with a beginning vowel of the next.

It's like the mysterious t in French. In certain occasions, it gets added in an expression, so that you aren't having two vowel sounds back to back. Like, I think Où va-t-elle (where is she going?) is a valid example. Où va-elle just wouldn't flow properly and if there's one thing I've learned about Spanish and French, word flow seems to be a big priority.

So basically, if the masculine noun starts in a vowel sound, use cet, otherwise use ce.

So:

But:

Without the t, you need to make a hard stop to distinguish between the words. Ergo, you throw that t in there so that everything can flow. Or that's my guess anyway.

cette

The rest are easy.

cette is for feminine singular nouns regardless of whether it starts with a vowel or not (because you've got that t sound in there for flow already).

ces

ces is the plural regardless of whether the noun in question would be masculine or feminine in the singular.

I continue to find so many things in French where duolingo just isn't enough; I have to find detailed explanations.

Well, and in the case of ce/cet, it didn't even have to be detailed, it just needed an explanation.