French Demonstrative Pronouns: ça, ceci, cela, ce

Ceci and cela are used to show emphasis when expressing this and that. For example:

Ceci est gris, pas blanc.

Je ne veux plus étudier cela.

If no emphasis is needed, you can still use ceci and cela, however ça (especially in spoken French) is the preferred pronoun when you do not necessarily need to express emphasis.

The pronoun ça

The pronoun ça is used primarily in informal or spoken French and does not express emphasis. Ça cannot come before être, and instead we use ce.

Ça me parait intéressant.

Donne-moi ça.

C’est magnifique !

Ce sont mes amis.

When ce is used with être in a compound tense, like the passé composé, ce becomes ç’ as in

Ç’a été au paravant vert.

What's the difference between the direct objects (le, la, les) and the demonstrative pronouns (ceci, cela, ça)?

The direct object pronouns, le, la, les, will always refer to a previously mentioned noun or object. On the other hand, ça, cela, ceci can be used to refer to a previously mentioned or not previously mentioned item, including items in physical proximity which haven’t been referenced yet in the conversation.

Le gars lui vend une télévision. Pourquoi tu l’achètes ?

Le gars lui vend une télévision. Pourquoi tu achètes ça ?

Oui, mettez le livre à côté de ça. (points to demonstrate where)

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[…] Below are all of the tonic pronouns and their meanings. Note that, normally, il/elle are used for it (as well as he and she). With the tonic pronouns, lui and elle are only for animate objects (he, she). If you need to say it normally, we will use cela, ceci, ça. […]