On this page this sentence is presented:

Voir c'est croire. - Seeing is believing.

It appears to me like there are two subjects in this sentence, voire (should probably be voir) and ce.

Why does this sentence say voire c'est instead of voir est (ignore the superfulous e after voir for now)?

  • There's no e after voir, I'm really surprised a page about language would make such a mistake. Voire does exist, but it's an adverb and has a very different meaning. – Teleporting Goat Mar 12 at 15:47
  • @TeleportingGoat L'auteur voulait sûrement écrire Voire c'est croir ! ;-) – jlliagre Mar 12 at 17:09
  • It was probably the same person that put an e on voire that also claimed that present participles are used as nouns in English. They aren't, and can't be as a participle is an adjective by definition. It is a verbal noun (also called a gerund) that looks like a participle. Originally the participle ended in and (thus resembling a participle in French!) and the gerund in ing. Gradually, as shown here the ing form took over and so the gerund and participle became indistinguishable. But that doesn't make them the same thing. – David Robinson Mar 12 at 19:11

In a number of cases, ce is used as subject of être, preceded by a comma and with the pronominal function of repeating the real subject of the sentence (in these uses it has no English equivalent). Among these cases belongs your case which is that of a real subject being an infinitive. Ce is obligatory here if the complement is also a positive infinitive (as in your example), but is optional otherwise.

Here is another example:

Vouloir, c'est pouvoir. When there is a will there is a way.

Reference: H. Ferrar, A French Reference Grammar, 1988, OUP.

See also:


B. Quand c’est un nom, l’infinitif s’utilise souvent pour exprimer des maximes, des vérités générales, des proverbes.

Promettre est facile, tenir est difficile.

Donner c’est donner, reprendre c’est voler.

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