Forum Rocket French French Grammar Ce n'est pas ce que je pensais

Ce n'est pas ce que je pensais


Please explain  the 2 "ce"s. The 1st one was self explanatory but what was the purpose or meaning of the 2nd ce, i.e. what was it's place grammatically speaking to make the proper sentence to mean what it meant. My instinct was to skip the 2nd one but I'm sure it would mean something else or just plain wrong!. 

toru e

This is another "think in French" thing. In English, we would say "It's not what I was thinking", but in French, the gist is more like "It's not that which I was thinking".

The "was thinking" is a passive construction, "I was thinking of something (unidentified)", so you need a relative pronoun that's indefinite (ce).


Thank you for the excellent explanation. I wrecked my brain in vain. I don't learn by memorization without understanding the construct of why. I'm still a child at heart, always asking pourquoi. May be you should introduce me to your "tic" friend who could tic his way of speaking French without proper construct. After all language and conversation are just for communication so long as we understand each other. I, unlike you have no plans to write, just exercise the grey matter and talk to myself. 

merci mille fois

toru e

I think it's just one of those where if you keep practicing grammar, speaking and listening, the same types of sentence "constructions" pop up again and again, so it becomes second nature after a while.

I'm still a beginner in Japanese, but I'm starting to hear similar "constructions" there too, after eight months, so after a while, you start getting a "feel" for the language even if you don't understand everything being said.


Sciences come easy but languages, not so much. May be I was born without a right brain. HaHa - a physiological impossibility if I am typing away. 

The difference between you (and all the other language comes easy persons) and me is that you said you are a beginner in Japanese but after eight months you started to have a "feel". It's distressing that I haven't started to "feel" anything yet. May be I need a night light to lead the way metaphorically speaking of course. I'm in the dark after months of trying. 

I hope you don't finish your Japanese program soon, selfish reason of course otherwise I may not have another student who can explain so clearly and at a level I can understand. 



Hi M-L

Not sure that languages and sciences are that different really.
Think of French as a strange new world that you are exploring.
Grammar and usage regularities are like the "natural laws" of this new world.
Once you've seen "ce que" a bunch of times you'll recognise it.
Just like conservation of momentum (or whatever scientific law you are familiar with).

Your "pourquoi" is great in this regard - it helps unearth and then ground the rules of planet French :) 

Good luck, I'm sure you'll have success: keep going, the light you're looking for comes in a flash after you've wrestled enough. Just like science research :)



I appreciate your encouragement; I needed that being insecure and questioning my ability in leaning a new language. I'm at a point of great frustration as oppose to torusan's "feeling" after 8 months of Japanese. I am at a point of static, not moving forward because the lessons are getting more complex. So I'm doing a bit more of reviewing the old lessons hoping for a better foundation. Check back with me in a month or two. May be I will be my usual sunny side again once I pass a hurdle. Right now I feel like living in London in a cloudy/drizzly/rainy mood metaphorically speaking. 


Know that London-fog feeling quite intimately :)
Not trying to rescue you from insecurity.
"Going back and reviewing" is a good way.
Sometimes going-forward-despite, and then-coming-back, is good too.
I'm sure you'll find your way :):):)


Thank you both - I feel like I have 2 great instructors and motivational speakers cheering me on. Unfortunately I feel like I'm at the bottom of the pit and couldn't climb out. Check back with me in a little while. I have spent so much time/days and effort on one lesson and still couldn't get past the hurdles without some cheating, meaning going back and repeat again and again. I am hopeful that this is the toughest lesson for this module. Once I get past it I might, just might get the "feel" or the "groove".

Merci mille fois !


As a native I find it quite logical, let me explain how it works in our minds:

[What I thought]
[Ce que je pensais]

[This] [is] [what I thought]
[Ceci] [est] [ce que je pensais] === [C'est] [ce que je pensais]

Now apply negation and bam.

The real bummer is that in English you can use "What" as a subject (as in "What I thought"). So in the English sentence your subject does appear twice, first as "this" and then as "what", while in French it's "ce" both times. Or at least that's how I perceive things. I may not be totally correct but I think it's good to share both ways of understanding a translation.

PS: I'm having the same mind blowing reversal order sentence structure issues with Chinese and I thought I'd go see what's happening on the French forum to clear my mind :-)



I'm glad there is someone out there feeling my pain "mind blowing reversal order sentence structure issues". 

Let's trade; I had traditional Chinese from Form 1 to 6 and took the London University ?(forgot the proper name, when the dinosaurs still roamed the land) A level exam, kind of like the USA AP with the highest score. I don't remember a lot from lack of use but I still have the basic. 

If you do that you will be joining my group of "teachers" trying to explain the most basic rudimentary grammatical structure because I'm still think in English and trying to translate to French and not remembering where the d'xxx or c'xxx come from, etc. I always thought c'xxx is from ce because I have forgotten about the ceci a while back. 

For example:
Sorry, I'm late===Désolé, je suis en retard (my answer)
The correct answer was=== Désolé, d’être en retard

Why did the subject "I" or "je" disappear? To me "d’être" has to be the replacement for je suis but why? 


Addendum: Don't ask me why there was this toothy face instead of D for Désolé. It was there even after I hit sent and when I read what I had sent it was Désolé, je suis en retard (my answer). Now it turned into a funny face. 


It's ok to forget where the d' and c' if you have the intuition of when to use them. I couldn't explain precisely all the rules myself, as like most French people I forgot the complexity of our rules that we stop learning past 8 years old and. When you're a kid you have this ability to learn a language without having to understand all of it, which is why we struggle today.

It's pretty rare to use "ceci" or "cela" in French as most of the time we shorten them either in "ce", "c'est" or "ça". So yes, sometimes "c'est" comes from "ce est" which itself comes from "cela est". But again no need to be too precise about these guys.

As for your example, the direct translation of "Sorry, I'm late" is indeed "Désolé, je suis en retard" and it's acceptable, many French people would say that.

However it's more common to say "Désolé d'être en retard" which could translate with "Sorry to be late" or maybe "Sorry for being late".

I think the reason behind that is that "Désolé" for us is a short way of saying "Je suis désolé". So you could say "Je suis désolé, je suis en retard" (I am sorry, I am late) but it doesn't sound good as there is a repetition and (we hate them ^^).

However be sure to remove the comma, as "Désolé, d'être en retard" is wrong if there is a comma. While "Désolé, je suis en retard" needs the comma, because it's two separate sentences: [Je suis désolé], [je suis en retard].

I feel like English is less restrictive as you can read "Sorry, I am late" and "Sorry I'm late" (with and without the comma). Maybe the whole point is related to this comma, who knows.


Thanks a million! You earned it. My daughter asked me what "fois" means in merci mille fois. She said the French are stingy, a joke. She took Spanish in high school and received the highest award but I had never heard her use it. She took simplified Chinese (that's usually the version taught at the university in US) and called me often at the beginning to explain why certain grammatical construct was so backward or reversed and I saved her a lot of time in research in vain, (like where I am now with French). Simplified Chinese characters are very different from the traditional which was what I learned in middle-high school. So different that I can't guess if it was a single character but with context I can figure it out. 

What you said/explained saved me hours of research; even so it usually ended up with more questions than answers because there is no one source to look up everything I need to know about French and I do mean everything at this point. I live too far south in New England where I have never met anyone or heard strangers in the public place talking French to one and other. In Montpelier, Vermont bank teller spoke to me in French before switching to English. 

While I have you here please explain the space between the !, ?, and :

I know you don't use serial comas before "and" and I accept that because I noticed younger Americans treat it as optional OR may be it has always been optional but I was taught to use it and it stuck. 

Now what is your Chinese issues that was so mind blowing that made you take a breather to help new learners  in your native tongue. I want to return a favor if I could. 


Hehe you're most welcome. But as I said I don't take what I say for granted as I'm not a teacher and would just tell the intuitive version of French rules.

Yet indeed discussing some grammatical points with French natives may help better than digging formatted manuals (especially older ones). French like every living language evolves pretty fast based on usage (here, they just officially simplified a whole lot of words a few days ago). The best compromise being certainly a teacher who know all the rules but is also a human being.

I haven't tried Rocket French obviously but if it's like its Chinese counterpart I think that's why it works well: they teach you real world sentences and if you want to understand more you can browse the web or ask the forum. I don't want to go against this forum but I would suggest you have a look at the French StackExchange (google it up) when you want to discuss certain points.

Now about the space and punctuation I think there's no real reason, it's just the way it is: in French you do put a space before ? ! : but not comma and dot. I don't know the reason, but I would say it helps for readability, so you don't mix a punctuation mark with a letter when your eyes quickly scan a text. Again this probably came from usage and not some guy initially deciding that it would be the official way to go. I think that's the thing to remember: most rules has been formalized based on what the usage had created and not the opposite (and then some syntaxes have been adjusted to make the whole more consistent, which is exactly what they did a few days ago).

Now because of our current society I see some people removing that space like "Bonjour!" and maybe someday these little differences will merge. I also sometimes do add a space when writing English "Hello !" because it looks nicer to my French-trained eyes (or maybe to add some french touch :-p)

Don't hesitate to keep on this discussion if you have more question. But again (and again) I cannot guarantee that what I say is the truth :)

Regarding my struggle wth Chinese thanks for your offer but my fiancée is Chinese so I'm dealing with her ^^ Also most of the time (if not all) a quick google search give me what I was looking for (probably because I'm still a big beginner).


Congratulations! You'll be an expert in no time! I have said it many times that language is a living thing; so it evolves and one has to use it to keep it alive.  

Computer wasn't invented when I learned Chinese. Now I know that it is called "electronic brain"電腦. The first time I heard software and hardware I thought they were talking about something in the kitchen. Then there is always the new local and regional slang that I would not be able to understand without some explanation. 

I hope you will continue to check the French Forum from time to time when you are frustrated with your Chinese learning and I hope selfishly that it is often so I have more people to help me. 

merci mille fois !


你好. There are two levels of Rocket Chinese with a third course presumably in development.  Feel free to join us with your Chinese questions on the Rocket Chinese forums.



很好, 謝謝. I don't think I can't participate in the Chinese Forum at least one Spanish learner said that. Are you leaning both languages? 


I see you have found that you can post in the Chinese forum even though you have not enrolled in a Rocket Chinese course.  As long as we have purchased one of their products, we are welcome to post anywhere.

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket French trial here .