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... mais il ne sait pas ce que c’est que de vivre sur une île isolée.

{vs}: ... mais il ne sait pas ce que ça fait de vivre sur une île isolée.

I myself would say "ce que ça fait" here, so I'm curious to find out about the difference in meaning between the two. Is it a variant of the expression "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ?"?

If so, I wonder if the first sentence serves to express a sense of frustration at his ignorance?

Incidentally, the function of "que (de vivre)" might be related to the following post:

What is the function of “que” in the phrase “que de + infinitive” here?

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  1. mais il ne sait pas ce que c’est que de vivre sur une île isolée:

As a native speaker i would literaly translate that to : " but he doesn't know what it is to live on an isolated Island.

  1. mais il ne sait pas ce que ça fait de vivre sur une île isolée:

Literally this could be translated as "but he doesn't know how it feels to live on an isolated island.

As you correctly guessed, both sentences serves to express a sense of frustration at the ignorance of the person referred to as 'he'.

However, in sentence 1. you could easily drop the second 'que' , it would still be valid french (as far as my experience goes) and doesn't change the meaning.

The first 'que' in that sentence is grammatically necessary, you wouldnt be able to write or say "mais il ne sait pas ce c’est que de vivre sur une île isolée.

  • BTW, am I the only one who gets a feeling the second sentence stresses a little more the effects that living alone on and island has on the speaker? – Circeus Jul 25 '17 at 23:19
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First, let's note and set aside the "on purpose" redundant structure, which is often used as a way to put emphasis on something, like in :

Je choisis David. ("neutral" expression)

C'est David que je choisis. (emphasis on the object)

C'est moi qui choisis David. (emphasis on the subject)

Regarding the meaning nuance, very litterally, « Ce que ça fait » (personal experience / subjective and perceptive) is indeed not the same as « Ce que c'est » (universal nature / objective and definitional).

  • Hi. So does the sentence "mais il ne sait pas ce que ça fait de vivre sur une île isolée" suggest that the speaker lives / once lived on such an island and is speaking from personal experience? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jul 24 '17 at 20:29
  • Hard to say without more context. But in any case it hints at the difference between what someone could imagine about this experience and the real thing. – RomainValeri Jul 24 '17 at 20:57

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