While speaking to a French person, I said

La chose la plus difficile pour moi avec le français, c'est écouter

But he corrected me to say

C'est D' écouter

Why is this? And why is it necessary to add "D'" after c'est and before écouter? Is there a rule for this?

up vote 2 down vote accepted

C'est écouter is not completely incorrect although grammarians tell that when the real subject (écouter) is an infinitive, it is introduced by de. The oqlf states :

L'infinitif en fonction attribut est précédé de la préposition de lorsque le sujet n'est pas un autre verbe à l'infinitif et qu'il est repris par une expression comme c'est ou ce serait.

Dropping de is however common at least in lazy/spoken French, especially because there is no adjective before the infinitive.

De is often not considered to be a preposition but seen as a marker of the infinitive, just like "to" in English (to listen). It can also be interpreted to mean le fait de:

La chose la plus difficile pour moi avec le français, c'est le fait d'écouter.

De is mandatory when used in this pattern:

c'est + adjective + de + infinitive, e.g.:

C'est difficile [pour moi] d'écouter le français.

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