How do I say this and that in French?

The French equivalent of this/that is generally:

  • ce for a masculine word (that you'd use with le);
  • cette for a feminine word (that you'd use with la).

So for example, with some masculine words (which use le for the):

le garçon
the boy
–>
ce garçon
this boy, that boy
le train
the train
–>
ce train
this train, that train

and some feminine words (which use la for the):

la fille
the girl
–>
cette fille
this girl, that girl
la maison
the house
–>
cette maison
this house, that house

As you see from these examples, which word to use in French depends on the gender of the noun. Unlike English, French doesn't tend to make a distinction between 'near' and 'far' (this vs that in English): the words ce and cette generally cover both meanings. (See the next page for information on how to distinguish between this and that in French.)

Words that use l'

Before words beginning with a vowel, l' is used instead of le or la (the water = l'eau, not la eau). The word for this/that for such words is:

  • cet for a masculine word beginning with a vowel;
  • cette (as normal) for a feminine word.

So for example:

l'homme
the man
–>
cet homme
this man, that man
l'eau
the water
–>
cette eau
this water, that water

What to read next

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 French grammar index
 French-English dictionary
 English-French dictionary



This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.