As far as I understood, "Ce sont" should be used, when the subject is plural (there are exceptions regarding quantities etc.), "C'est" otherwise. I know that in familiar speach it may be acceptable to always use "C'est".

The question arises, what's considered a subject that qualifies as plural gramatically, when facing enumerations. It seems that an enumeration of singulars is normally treated as a singular subject, but that doesn't seem to be universally accepted.

I.e. "C'est mon fils et ma fille" and "Ce sont mon fils et ma fille" can both be found at google, which doesn't help. That may be because of the exception regarding "C'est" in familiar speach, but it seems to be the more dominant version, too.

Combinations of singular + plural seem to be generally treated as plural, independant of the order. The "C'est" exception in familiar speach ruins any certainty there for me, though.

I could imagine combinations that are considered a singular entity or with a predominant singular (for example the king and his subjects) are officially treated as singular?

Pointing me to an authoritative reference would certainly be helpful.


C'est mon fils et ma fille is not just familiar but an accepted and common style.

There are rare cases where using Ce sont is mandatory like where it expands a previously expressed plural:

Je parle espagnol et anglais, ce sont des langues que j'ai étudiées à l'école.

and not

... c'est des langues...

Otherwise, despite being less formal French, it is not grammatically incorrect to use c'est instead of ce sont. There are even cases where the singular is mandatory:

C'est dix Euros (The price is €10)

Ce sont dix Euros

C'est nous qui... (It is all of us who...)

Ce sont nous qui...

Source: Académie française : C'est / ce sont

Here is also an interesting article about this illogical use of the plural with a singular pronoun :

Ce sont des anglais - Un accord avec l'attribut ?

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  • Just because something is common doesn't mean it's gramatically correct :). However, as I wrote, I think it's the official version, but with that stupid inofficial exception, everyone using it just isn't good evidence ;). The example with langues doesn't help, as 'des langues' clearly is plural already. Also, I did mention I'm aware of official exceptions like quantities. – Sascha Rambeaud Oct 28 '15 at 10:24
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    If having the Académie française stating it is not incorrect isn't enough for you, I can't help more .... The example with langues is here to show what the Académie consider a grammatical mistake. Answer updated with more references. – jlliagre Oct 28 '15 at 11:07
  • Sorry for creating a misunderstanding, my comment was directly aimed at 'accepted and common style', not your reasoning as a whole. I hadn't figured out all the nuances of your academie link, there's a reason i'm asking in english, after all :). For example, I'm not quite sure where 'Dans tous ces cas cependant, le pluriel est de meilleure langue.' applies. Regarding the langues example it would probably make sense to turn that around: 'Je parle des langues que j'ai étudiées à l'école, ce sont espagnol et anglais.', which would be in accordance with the academie rule. – Sascha Rambeaud Oct 28 '15 at 12:19
  • "Le pluriel est de meilleure langue" means that in the three examples provided, the plural is preferred in a rigorous, high style French. However, that also implicitly means that using the singular is not considered a mistake. Moreover, statistics in the tables 1 and 2 in the 201.pdf document show that the trend is for the singular to replace the plural in these constructions. – jlliagre Oct 28 '15 at 17:09

"c'est", like "on", tends to be a neutral even in the number (in popular langage). E.g. Only very literate people would write "vivent les vacances" instead of "vive les vacances", despite only the first being correct. Similarily (but less extreme) at oral people easily say "c'est + plural" instead of "ce sont". You will be considered as slightly picky if you use the correct grammar, especially at oral (possibly even for "c'est des choses qui arrivent"). The use of "c'est" often is a lot like "voici", finally.

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  • Like I wrote, I'm aware that in familiar speach "C'est' may be used universally. However, I'm interested in the grammatically correct answer. – Sascha Rambeaud Oct 27 '15 at 14:00

"ce sont" should be used but when we talk it's OK to say "C'est".

more informations if you can read french

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  • I've already seen that link, but it doesn't address the actual problem, what constitutes as grammatical plural and what doesn't, especially regarding enumerations. – Sascha Rambeaud Oct 27 '15 at 13:59
  • "Dans la langue parlée, il peut parfois être admis d'accorder le verbe avec le sujet apparent 'ce' lorsque le sujet réel est 'eux' ou 'ceux' ou bien une énumération pourtant à la troisième personne du pluriel." For me it's clear that you should use "ce sont" when there is an enumeration. – Deliss Oct 27 '15 at 14:47

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