C'est versus Il est : which one to choose?

In your learning journey, you have certainly learnt that C’est means it is and Il est is translated he is. But in some contexts you might not be able to translate them as you learnt. You might be confused or frustrated not to know when to use C'est or il est. A lot of people make the mistake of mixing them up.

To help you avoid such situations, I’ll tell you in a simple and practical way how to use C’est or Il est depending on the situation.

Wondering wether to use il est or c'est
C'est versus Il est

Image from ijmaki, Pixabay

When to use c’est?

C’est is the conjugated form of the verb être Ce + est. Since “Ce” ends with a vowel and “est” starts with a vowel, both words are connected with an apostrophe and form “C’est’. In the plural, C’est becomes “Ce sont”.

We generally use C’est for introducing somebody or identifying something. It can also be used in different ways.

C’est + name

Example: C’est Alice => This is Alice.

C’est + determiner + common noun

A determiner is what comes before a noum. It can be an article (le, la,l’, les, une, une, des), a possessive adjective (ma, mon, mes,…), a demonstrative (ce, cet, cette, ces,…).


C’est ma sœur => She is my sister.

C’est un stylo. => This is a pen.

C’est cette femme qui m’a aidé => This is the lady who helped me.

Ce sont des chinois. =>They are chinese.

C’est + pronoun

C’est moi qui ai pris ton livre. => It’s me who have taken your book.

C’est vous qui venez pour l’atelier ? => Are you the ones coming for the workshop?

Oui, c’est nous qui venons pour l’atelier. => Yes, we are the ones

Ce sont eux qui viennent de France. => They are the ones coming from France.

It’s important to note that when “c’est” is followed by nous or vous, we use c’est instead of Ce sont.

C’est + adjective/adverb

C’est can be used to make a comment or express an opinion.

🛑 In that case, the adjective must always be in the mascucline form.

Examples :

Les maths, c’est difficile. => Mathematics are difficult.

C’est bien de dormir à la belle étoile. => it’s good to sleep outside.

C’est beau ✅ => It's beautiful

C’est belle❌

Ce sont beaux

C’est + date, C’est + question

C’est can also be used for dates, and with questions.


La fête nationale en France c’est le 14 juillet. => France national day is on July 14th

Qui est-ce ? => Who is this ?

Qu’est-ce que c’est ? =>What is this ?

When to use Il est?

Il est is in general used to describe. It can be followed by an adjective, a profession, a place, time expression or impersonal opinion. In the plural we use ils sont.


Il est beau => He is handsome

Ils sont grands.


Il est policier => He is a policeman


Il est dehors => He is outside


Il est huit heures et quart. => It’s eight past fifteen.

Impersonal opinion

Il est difficile de faire plusieurs choses à la fois. => It’s difficult to do several things at the same time.

🛑Take Note that “Il est” is never followed by a determiner!

So from now, never say again. Il est mon frère. Il est un professeur.

To wrap it up, C’est is in general used to introduce or identify while Il est is used to describe. Both can mean he is or it is depending on the situation and both can be followed by an adjective. Il est is never followed by a determiner.

To make sure that you know the difference, take the test below. And do not forget to share this article to help other people who may be struggling with differentiating C’est and Il est.

For more exercises

C'est ou il est avec le vocabulaire des professions

Exercices Il est vs c'est

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Imperative Tense

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