I have been studying French for a few months now.

I am currently studying quelle and quel and I have a question that I don't understand the answer of. So, the question is:

De quelle couleur est votre manteau?

The answer is:

The coat is beige.

So, I wrote:

Mon manteau a beige couleur.

But the answer was:

Il est beige.

From what I understood, il est means he is. So why does it mean it is?

I am not clear on why il est changes its meaning to it is. I would very much appreciate it if you provided me with some clarification as to how the meaning is changed. Basic grammar is what I need!

  • @SeoncheolPark Welcome to French Language Stack Exchange! You're invited to take the tour and visit the Help Centre, and continue to ask more questions as you learn French. :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 9, 2017 at 20:45
  • 4
    There is no equivalent for "it" in French. Objects are gendered and "manteau" happens to be "male". Therefore "il est beige". Your answer could have been correct save for a few errors: "mon manteau est de couleur beige" although this would almost never be used when speaking.
    – ApplePie
    Jul 9, 2017 at 23:39
  • 2
    did you try to search for the translation of "it" in French?
    – njzk2
    Jul 10, 2017 at 5:31
  • 1
    A much more interesting question would have been why the answer to the the question as given was not simply, "Beige".
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 10, 2017 at 6:11
  • 1
    @MrLister This would not be a question for French Language and it would probably be put on hold since it would have no relation to the French Language, it is an issue in language teaching. The answer is because language teachers don't always teach real language but their student say things that natives do not often say in real life. The question might be fit for Language Learning though.
    – None
    Jul 10, 2017 at 15:14

5 Answers 5


The crux of your question is in the sentence:

From what I understood, Il est means He is. But, Why does it mean It is?

The fact is that in French there is no “it”. The only French grammatical genders are masculine (applied to male people and animals, and to part of inanimate objects, such as le manteau, il) or feminine (for female people and animals, and the rest of inanimate objects, such as la chaise, elle).

So, for every French noun you have to learn its gender, masculine or feminine, and agree adjectives and pronouns consequently.

  • It is... C'est. The C' (note the apostrophe) is considered a word itself. So: It was = C'était It is = C'est It will = Ça sera It won't = Ça ne sera
    – OncleDan
    Jan 18, 2018 at 19:25

The usual answer to the question : De quelle couleur est ton manteau ? is: Il (mon manteau) est beige.

Consider it would be the same in English:
What colour is your coat? → It 's beige.

What you wanted to answer using a (3rd person of avoir): Mon manteau a une couleur beige would not sound idiomatic at all and we never say that in French. And mind the word order.

If you really wanted to mention the word couleur in your answer, you could have gone with: Mon manteau est de couleur beige, which is not usual but possible, and slightly clumsy unless in a very specific context.

We do not repeat the word couleur in the answer because it is considered as part of the question phrase, and you don't always have the question word or phrase in the answer (it's the same in lots of languages).

Quel temps fait-il ? → Il pleut.
Quelle est sa nationalité ? → Elle (il) est français(e).

But it is not always the case, you'll probably soon learn (if you haven't yet) quelle heure est-il ?, to which a French person would answer: Il est 3 heures, keeping the word heures in the answer.

  • A good way of putting it. Note that a similar wording is used for English questions "How [adjective] is ...?" For example, "How long is it?" It's quite hard for us to wrap our head around the transposition to "De quelle longueur est-ce ?" or "Quelle est sa longueur ?" And so I sometimes do show them the declarative form with this word repeated: "La longueur est ..." or "C'est ____ de longueur." But then the same trick isn't useful here. There are so many exceptions to wrap one's head around.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 9, 2017 at 20:49
  • To elaborate on one of the examples: French, like English, doesn't allow verbs without subjects. You can say "Mokuyoubi desu" (lit. "Monday is") is Japanese or "Está lloviendo" (lit. "Is raining") is Spanish, but in English you have to say "It's Monday" or "It's raining." There's no genderless form of 'it' in French, so "il" is added: "Il pleut" (It's raining) "Il faut..." (It's necessary to...), "Il vaut mieux que..." (It would be better if...), and so on. In the particular example in the OP, though, "il" is just a normal pronoun referring to the grammatically masucline coat.
    – anomaly
    Jul 9, 2017 at 23:27
  • 1
    I didn't downvote but I don't feel you answered the question which is really on the gender of words.
    – ApplePie
    Jul 9, 2017 at 23:41
  • @ApplePie Gender is an issue (I pointed to it Il (mon manteau) thinking it was sufficient but the use of avoir instead of être is an important issue. Explaining this seems just as important. We're here to help within the limits of the site, even if OPs do not see all the issues brought in by their questions.
    – None
    Jul 10, 2017 at 5:50
  • @anomaly Spanish doesn’t allow verbs without subjects, either; but unlike French and English, it is perfectly happy with implicit subjects, i.e., subjects being expressed through personal ending alone. English is actually quite okay with that as well, but only in limited contexts where the subject is easily inferrable (i.e., “What’s that man’s name?” — “Can’t tell you. Never saw him before.”). Jul 10, 2017 at 18:45

You need to understand that in French, like many other languages, objects are not automatically neutral ('it') as in English, but female ('she') or male ('he').
You will need to learn for every noun which of the two it is; this is quite an effort for native english speakers.

In your example, manteau is male, so it gets the french 'il'.

  • 2
    Even worse than that: in French (as in many other languages) there is no explicit neutral grammatical gender, so all objects are either masculine (le manteau, il) or feminine (la chaise, elle).
    – DaG
    Jul 9, 2017 at 22:47
  • 1
    There are no neuter nouns in French, only masculine or feminine.
    – fdb
    Jul 9, 2017 at 22:48
  • 1
    @DaG Not that languages with neuter distribute it among inanimate objects any more logically than they do masculine and feminine. ;)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 10, 2017 at 1:16
  • 1
    @LukeSawczak I'm not saying that French is logical, but come on, German. "das Mädchen"? Seriously? Being a young lady isn't enough for being feminine?
    – Right leg
    Jul 10, 2017 at 13:39
  • The OP already knows that manteau is masculine, though, or they wouldn't have replied "Mon manteau ...".
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 10, 2017 at 18:30

Mon manteau a beige couleur is not correct because a is a form of avoir , not of être. French uses the same verb as English in this sentence : The coat is beige = Le manteau est beige , or with the pronoun : Il est beige. Translating the subject it depends of the gender of the noun in French: le manteau is masculine => il ; la chemise is feminine => elle.

  • Bienvenue à French Language Stack Exchange !
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 9, 2017 at 20:46
  • My French is rusty, but I'd say Mon manteau a couleur beige is much less wrong than Mon manteau est couleur beige. A coat is not a color, it has a color. Better still, though, …est de couleur beige. Jul 11, 2017 at 4:22
  • 1
    Mon manteau a la couleur beige would be valid. But nobody says that. Jul 11, 2017 at 8:50

French speaker here. It simply means "It is".

When you wrote "Mon manteau a beige couleur.", it is the same as saying "My coat has color beige". You could say instead "Mon manteau est de couleur beige." which could be translated to "My coat is of beige color".

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