Demonstrative adjectives & pronouns in French: A useful guide

Planning a sunny holiday on the French Riviera or a course at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic? Or maybe, you just want to impress your francophone friends?

Mastering the art of demonstrative adjectives and pronouns is your magic spell to sounding like a native speaker. These little words might seem insignificant, but in reality, they're the secret sauce that adds flavor and precision to your French conversations — speaking of which, make sure to eat a poutine while in Québec!

Understanding demonstrative adjectives in French is crucial for anyone looking to speak French fluently. In this article, we’ll dive into French grammar in a practical, simple and fun way — What? If you can have fun with flags, you can have fun with grammar!

And let’s add a soundtrack to this article.

Demonstrative adjectives are words that help specify which particular person, place, or thing is being referred to in a sentence.

What are demonstrative adjectives in French?

Demonstrative adjectives, known as "adjectifs démonstratifs" in French, are a crucial part of the language's grammar toolkit. They're words that help specify which particular person, place, or thing is being referred to in a sentence. In simpler terms, they point out and describe nouns in a sentence.

Purpose of French demonstrative adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives serve the purpose of indicating the proximity of the noun in relation to the speaker and the listener. They help in distinguishing between items that are near ("this" or "these" in English) and those that are far ("that" or "those" in English) from the speaker. For instance, in the sentence "I prefer this book," the word "this" is a demonstrative adjective indicating the specific book the speaker is referring to.

Differences between demonstrative adjectives in French and English

Number and gender agreement

One significant difference lies in the requirement for agreement in gender and number in French. In English, demonstrative adjectives like "this" and "these" don't change, regardless of the noun they modify.

In French, however, demonstrative adjectives must agree with the gender (the infamous masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the noun.

We’ll come back to this in the next section.

Additional forms

French demonstrative adjectives have additional forms to indicate something that is very close or something that is further away. For items close to the speaker, "ceci" (this) and "ceux-ci" (these) are used, while for items close to the listener, "cela" (that) and "ceux-là" (those) are employed.

Singular and plural French demonstrative adjectives with examples

Enough theory! The best way to explain how demonstrative adjectives work in French depending on the gender and number is through examples. Accio demonstrative adjectives!

MasculineCe trainCes trains
Masculine + vowel or hCet arbreCes arbres
FeminineCette femmeCes femmes

Example sentences with French demonstrative adjectives

Masculine singular demonstrative adjectives

Ce bateau est somptueux.
This boat is sumptuous.

Ce sorcier est très célèbre.
This wizard is very famous.

Masculine plural demonstrative adjectives

Ces livres sont passionnants.
These books are exciting.

Ces hommes sont courageux.
These men are courageous.

Masculine singular demonstrative adjectives before noun or adjective starting with a vowel or h

Cet arbre est vieux.
This tree is old.

Cet hôtel est luxueux.
This hotel is luxurious.

Feminine singular demonstrative adjectives

Cette table est magnifique — Yes, table is feminine. Just because.
This table is stunning.

Cette femme est talentueuse.
This woman is talented.

Feminine plural demonstrative adjectives

Ces fleurs sont belles.
These flowers are beautiful.

Ces maisons sont grandes.
These houses are big.

How to make a distinction between this, that, these and those

In many instances, employing the demonstrative adjectives ce/cet/cette/ces (as explained in the section on French demonstrative adjectives) is enough to convey the meanings of this, that, these, and those in French.

However, there are occasions, particularly when discussing durations, where emphasizing how far in the past (or in the future) an event occurred or will occur (that day), or how close to the present certain events are happening (these days), becomes necessary.

Examples with the particles -ci and -là

Using -ci (proximity)

Je me sens bien ces temps-ci — more ways to express your feelings in French here.
I feel great lately.

Tu as eu de la chance cette fois-ci.
You got lucky this time.

Il a fait très chaud ces jours-ci — more weather vocab in French here.
It’s been very hot these past few days.

Using -là (distance)

Ce soir-là, je suis tombée amoureuse — more ways to say I love you in French here.
That night, I fell in love.

Je n’étais pas au bureau cette semaine-là.
I wasn’t at the office that week.

Dans ces moments-là, on ne sait jamais quoi faire.
In those moments, one never knows what to do.

What are demonstrative pronouns in French?

Demonstrative pronouns, or "pronoms démonstratifs" in French, are a vital component of the language, providing a clear and precise way to refer to specific people, places, or things without having to repeat the nouns previously mentioned.

Demonstrative pronouns provide a precise way to refer to specific people, places, or things without having to repeat the nouns previously mentioned.

Purpose demonstrative pronouns in French

They are used as a substitute for nouns that have been previously mentioned or are understood within the context of the conversation. They pinpoint and emphasize a particular item or items, enhancing the efficiency of communication. For example, in the sentence "I like this invisible cloak, but I prefer that one," the words "this" and "that" are demonstrative pronouns, replacing the nouns "cloak" and "one."

Differences between demonstrative pronouns in French and English

Gender and number

English demonstrative pronouns do not have gender or number distinctions. The same forms, such as "this," "that," "these," and "those," are used for singular and plural, masculine and feminine nouns.

However, French demonstrative pronouns must agree in gender and number with the nouns they replace. There are specific forms for masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural, and feminine plural pronouns.

Use as subjects or objects

English demonstrative pronouns are the same whether they are used as subjects or objects in a sentence.

On the contrary, French demonstrative pronouns have different forms for subjects and objects. For example, the demonstrative pronoun for "this" as a subject is "celui" for masculine singular and "celle" for feminine singular, whereas as an object, it becomes "celui-ci" for masculine singular and "celle-ci" for feminine singular, indicating proximity.

French demonstrative pronouns

Here again, the best way to understand the theory is through concrete examples. On y va ?


French demonstrative pronouns construction

With a suffix

Demonstrative pronouns in French can be modified with suffixes to indicate proximity or distance. Adding "-ci" signifies nearness, and "-là" indicates distance.


Je voudrais celui-ci, s’il vous plaît.
I’d like this one, please.

Entre les deux, je préfère celle-là.
Between the two, I prefer that one.

Ils exagèrent, ceux-là.
They exaggerate.

Followed by a prepositional phrase

French demonstrative pronouns can be used with prepositional phrases to provide more context or specify the relationship between the pronoun and other elements in the sentence.


Celle avec le chapeau est ma sœur — More family members in French here.
The one with the hat is my sister.

Ceux sans expérience auront besoin de formation.
Those without experience will need training.

J’ai trouvé le livre de biologie, mais je cherche encore celui d’histoire de la magie.
I found the biology book, but I’m still looking for the History of Magic one.

Followed by a relative pronoun

Demonstrative pronouns can also be used before relative pronouns to refer back to a specific noun in the previous clause.


C’est pour ceux qui en ont besoin.
This is for those who need it.

Voici celle dont je t’ai parlé.
Here is the one I told you about.

Celui dont on ne doit pas prononcer le nom.

Pointing at people in France

Pointing at people is considered rude in France, a belief that isn't universally shared across cultures.

The origins of this custom are somewhat obscure. One theory ties it to the biblical story of Judas betraying Jesus, though the Bible's inconsistencies make this explanation uncertain. Another notion connects it to witches and sorcerers, who allegedly cursed people while pointing at them — or you can use a wand!

The French expression "montrer du doigt," translating to "pointing with your finger," reflects this cultural sentiment, suggesting denunciation or blame. Despite the lack of a definitive origin, French children are often admonished against pointing, a practice ingrained from a young age.

Interestingly, pointing at objects, while technically improper, is widely accepted, especially in bustling places like markets where it's essential for communication.

Therefore, if you don’t want to make a cultural faux pas, you’ll definitely need demonstrative adjectives in French!

In the magical world of Muggle/Moldu grammar, French demonstrative adjectives and pronouns act as subtle enchantments.

Like wizards mastering their wands, we've learned to wield them, casting spells of understanding in our conversations.

And if you want to be accepted at the French Hogwarts (Poudlard), make sure to learn all adjectives and pronouns in French.

Lumos on French grammar!

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