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The following is spoken by a social worker (in a documentary TV show1) who works for the DPJ ("Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse") in Québec.

(Note: I'm copying a large excerpt, partially for context, and partially because I will ask other questions about the exact same excerpt in other posts.)

Dans le passé, au début du placement, on supervisait les visites, on a levé la supervision, parce que c'est les parents qui ont des super belles compétences parentales, capacités parentales dans un moment présent avec l'enfant, un trois heures avec leur enfant, ils sont super adéquats, mais c'est souvent avec leur entourage, ce qui se passe autour d'eux, qu'ils vont finir par être envahis, pis ça fait en sorte qu'ils ne sont peut-être plus aussi adéquats qu'ils devraient l'être avec leur enfant ou à être exposée à des choses qu'elle devrait pas.

My best guess is that each of the two "c'est" are competely optional? That is, it seems like the sentences would work without them:

  • On a levé la supervision, parce que c'est les parents qui ont des super belles compétences parentales.
    On a levé la supervision, parce que [∅] les parents qui ont des super belles compétences parentales.
  • Mais c'est souvent avec leur entourage, ce qui se passe autour d'eux, qu'ils vont finir par être envahis.
    Mais [∅] souvent avec leur entourage, ce qui se passe autour d'eux, qu'ils vont finir par être envahis.

Questions:

  1. Is it indeed true that the sentences work if the "c'est" is deleted, in both sentences above?
  2. What usefulness does "c'est" serve? Is there a nuance difference? Is it there for the purpose of somehow helping the speaker to continue her train of thought? Is it there to provide emphais? Or is it pure filler with no purpose other than to help speech flow and to fill in what otherwise would be awkawrd pauses?

1. https://ici.tou.tv/au-coeur-de-la-dpj , episode 1

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  • 1
    In English, in regular speech, you would say; because it's the parents who have super parenting skills. "it's" is very common in speech. I would not try to reinvent the wheel here. Rather, I would internalize the usage. "parce que c'est x qui [verbe]. That's the takeway for real speech here. It actually flows well in terms of speech: mais c'est souvent avec leur entourage, ce qui se passe autour d'eux, qu'ils vont finir par être envahis,
    – Lambie
    Feb 8, 2022 at 18:02
  • cont'd: but it's often with those around them, what happens around them, that will end up being invasive to them
    – Lambie
    Feb 8, 2022 at 18:04

1 Answer 1

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  1. Is it indeed true that the sentences work if the "c'est" is deleted, in both sentences above?

    Not really. If you really want to remove the first c'est, then you need to also remove the qui that follows.

    On a levé la supervision parce que les parents ont de superbes compétences parentales.

    but then, the reason why the supervision has been stopped is less clear.

    C'est les parents qui implies that it's not someone else, i.e. not us. The meaning is really: "We stopped doing it because the ones with the best skills, it's the parents." That part is lost.

    Similarly, the second c'est works with a que (the one in qu'ils vont finir.) Both might be removed too but the sentence would need to be rephrased to stay idiomatic:

    mais ils vont souvent finir par être envahis avec leur entourage, ce qui se passe autour d'eux...

  2. What usefulness does "c'est" serve?

    It emphasizes the subject. Compare:

    • Il arrive demain. He will arrive tomorrow. (neutral)
    • C'est lui qui arrive demain. He's the one who will arrive tomorrow. (not someone else)
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  • a) can you eloborate on "but then, the reason why the supervision has been stopped is less clear"? i would have thought that the French sentence in your first quote is very clear; it is in English: "We lifted the supervision because the parents have superb parenting skills"; the English sentence leaves no ambiguity or uncertainty about why the supervision was lifted!
    – silph
    Feb 8, 2022 at 1:53
  • b) when you say "C'est les parents qui implies that it's not someone else", i suppose i'm confused about why this emphasis is useful. it's obvious that the "superbes compétences parentales" would be talking about the parents' skills, not the social worker's!
    – silph
    Feb 8, 2022 at 1:53
  • c) in the second sentence, you say that the "c'est" works with a "que". Is this "que" the "que" in " qu' il vont finir par être envahis" ?
    – silph
    Feb 8, 2022 at 1:57
  • a&b) This is spontaneous spoken language, not a carefully written PhD thesis, so you shouldn't expect a 100% foolproof logic. The meaning is really: We stopped doing it because the ones with the best skills, that's the parents. c) yes, that one.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 8, 2022 at 2:09
  • i think one reason i chose to ask this question on French.SE, is that this use of "c'est" doesn't really exist as ubiquitously as it does in French; my anglophone brain is stumbling over "c'est" in this tv show over and over again! but your answer begins to help me sense how a francophone's brain "senses" what this structure does, which helps.
    – silph
    Feb 8, 2022 at 2:12

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