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Given a sentence constructed as such:

Subject - auxiliary verb - past participle - object  
I        have              eaten             it
J'       ai                mangé             ça


Subject - object - auxiliary verb - past participle
I         it       have             eaten
Je        l'       ai               mangé

Are both options grammatical? Which is used more widely? Does it change for different verbs?

Étant donné une phrase comme ça:

Sujet - verbe auxiliaire - participe passé - objet  
J'      ai                mangé             ça
I       have              eaten             it


Sujet - objet - verbe auxiliaire - participe passé
Je       l'     ai                mangé
I        it     have              eaten

Est-ce que les deux formulations sont correctes ? Laquelle est la plus utilisée ? Est-ce que ça dépend du verbe ?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

J'ai mangé cela


I have eaten that


Je l'ai mangé


I have eaten it.

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Is the ça in the question just wrong and I should favour ce and cela? – James Webster Sep 25 '13 at 8:21
@JamesWebster: ça is an abbreviation of cela – Toto Sep 25 '13 at 8:23
French lessons for 4 years, admittedly with a LOT forgotten, and a few years of hobbyist French and I never knew that! – James Webster Sep 25 '13 at 8:27
Une explication du vote négatif serait bienvenue! – Toto Sep 26 '13 at 7:10

Use “je l'ai mangé” when you speak of a definite thing known by the person you talk to. Use “j'ai mangé ça” when you speak of something you can only point to, or something that is hard (or that you don't want) to define. Ça can also have depreciative connotations in some contexts (which cela or ceci may also have).

This distinction only involve pronouns and is independent of the verb. For instance one use “je l'ai écrite” for a letter but “j'ai écrit ça” for the content (the first time you refer to it).

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