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Pronouns

C'est vs. Il est/Elle est

Both ce and il/elle can represent the definite (things that have gender- this includes both persons and nonpersons).

Il/elle are used generally when the noun is not modified by an article.

Il est pompier.  He is a fireman.

Elle est médecin.  She is a doctor.

When the noun is modified use ce.

C'est un pompier. He/She is a fireman.

Ce n'était pas un romancier d'un immense talent parmi les romanciers du dix-neuvième siècle, c'était le romancier même du dix- neuvième siècle.
-- Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly à propos d'Honoré de Balzac
He was not a novelist of immense talent among the novelists of the 19th century, he was THE novelist of the 19th century.

Ce should be used before proper nouns and pronouns.

C'est Jacques Chirac à la porte. It's Jacques Chirac at the door
C'est moi It is me
C'est toi It is you
C'est la nôtre It is ours

Before an adjective

Either c'est or il/elle est can be used before adjectives.  When c'est is used, the phrase takes on a wider meaning.  The pronoun ce represents the entire class of an object, while the pronoun il/elle normally represents an object in particular.

Ils nous ont servi du roblochon. .. They served us roblochon cheese..
..C'est très fort.  In general this cheese is very strong. 
..Il est très fort. This particular serving of cheese was very strong.

practice C'est vs. Il est/Elle est

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