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Salut tout le monde,

I'm having a problem determining when it's best to use « ça » or « il » in contexts such as the following:

Ils ont mangé tout le chocolat. __ leur fera mal au ventre.

Since they ate it (i.e., the chocolate), would you be able to use either « ça » or « il »?

Only « ça »?

Only « il »?

If you can only use « ça », how does the statement with the blank space above differ from the use of « elle » in the following context:

Voici sa maison. Elle (la maison) est très grande.

I'm aware that this topic has been discussed plenty of times, but I wasn't able to find a clear answer to this type of question.

Merci beaucoup.

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I would say that the use of "ça" or "il"/"elle" depends on what the subject of the sentence represents:

  • "ça" if it's an action
  • "il" or "elle" if it's a person or an object

In your first example, it is not the chocolate that will cause stomach ache: it is the action of eating it all. Therefore, "ça" is used.

In your second example, since the house is the subject of the sentence and a feminine word, "elle" is used.

If you say:

Ils ont repeint la maison. Ça lui redonne un aspect neuf.

Here, it is the action of repainting the house that gives it a new look, so "ça" is used.

But now, if you say:

Ils ont repeint la maison. Elle a l'air neuve.

Here, even if there is the action of repainting the house, it is the house that looks new, so "elle" is used.

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  • Thanks, Luca! How about if you are talking about expired milk instead of chocolate? Could you say, « Ils ont bu du lait périmé. Il leur fera mal au ventre. » ? Or would it not be expired milk that caused their stomachs to hurt, but rather the action of drinking it? If this is the case, would it be correct to say that one should always use « ça » when referring to a causal relationship? – SalsaFiesta Nov 3 '20 at 19:27
  • Glad I could help you! I would use "ça" even with the expired milk, since it's the action of drinking that causes stomach ache. "il" is used only when the object/person is the subject: "Ils ont oublié le lait sur la table. Il est sûrement périmé". With the action of leaving the milk on the table as a subject, it would give something like this: "Ils ont oublié le lait sur la table. Cela a dû le faire tourner" ("cela" is the long form of "ça") – Luca Mayer-Dalverny Nov 4 '20 at 9:22
  • Sorry for the tardy reply! Thanks for the additional info. – SalsaFiesta Nov 24 '20 at 2:32

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