What is the difference between ‘ce’ and ‘se’ in French?

the difference between ce and se in french

French language is full of homophones, or words that sound similar but have different meaning and spelling. That is the case with two very common French homophones, ce and se. They aro so small that easily go unheard and so similar that easily go confused.

Today, we’ll help you learn to easily make a distinction.

What is the difference between ‘ce’ and ‘se’?

Ce’ and ‘Se’ are homophones. Despite their similar sounds, they have completely different meanings and spellings:

-‘Ce’ is a demonstrative pronoun. It corresponds to “that”, “this” or “it” in English.

-‘Se’ is a reflexive pronoun. It corresponds to “oneself/himself/herself” in English.

Let’s examine each one of them separately.

Ce – We write “ce” when it is a determiner or a demonstrative pronoun (→ idea of designation). When translated in English it correspond to demonstrative pronouns “this” or “it”.

It is usually used with the verb être, in both “c’est” and various impersonal expressions.


Ce crayon m’appartient. (this determiner precedes a noun)

This crayon belongs to me.

Ce fut une tâche difficile, mais je l’ai menée à bien.

That was a difficult task, but I managed it.

C’est une affaire difficile.

It’s a difficult matter.

This pronoun is also used before qui and que and as the subject of the verb to be.

Je ne sais ce qu’il va en penser.

I don’t know what he will think of it.

Se – We write se when we are dealing with a pronominal verb.

Exemples :

 Armand se croit tout permis.

Armand thinks everything is allowed.

Bien se laver après la manipulation.

Wash thoroughly after handling.

So, at the end, how do you know which one to use.

The rule is simple: there are two possibilities.

  1. If your pronoun is in front of a verb, put the phrase “cela est” (= “it is”) in front of the pronoun to make sure the sentence makes sense. If so, then you can use ‘ce’. Use “se” if the sentence makes no sense.

Ce/se n’est pas facile.

It’s not easy.

  1. If the pronoun is not in front of the verb, rather in the front of a noun or an adjective, then you must use ‘ce’.

Ce livre est très vieux.

That book is very old.

The difference between “c’est” and “s’est”

Likewise, do not confuse “c’est” and “s’est”. If the group can be replaced by that is, one writes c’est. 

C’est de ta faute ! – Cela est de ta faute !

It’s your fault ! – This is your fault!

We write s’est when we are dealing with a pronominal verb conjugated in a compound tense.

Exemples :

Paul s’est cassé la jambe. (→ Je me suis cassé la jambe.)

Paul broke his leg. → I broke my leg.

It’s time to Practice!

Dear student, you know perfectly well that learning informations is good, but it’s nothing to compared to putting it in practice.

We have selected an exercice for you to apply what you have learned today.

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