In French, the word ça means "it" or "that." It's a very simple word, but it's also a very useful word that every French student needs to add to their vocabulary because it's used in a number of common expressions. A brief lesson will introduce you to this word and the many ways you can use it.
The Definition of Ça
The pronunciation of ça is sa. The cédille (or cedilla) is used on the letter c to ensure that it has a soft sound. Without it, the a would automatically give the c a hard sound like it does in the word cat.
Ça is an informal word that is actually a contraction of cela, which means "it." Ça is also used to replace the more formal ceci, which means "this." These derivations are why ça is often defined as "it," "that," or "this."
Ça is also an indefinite demonstrative pronoun. Unlike some other pronouns, it does not change based on the subject or the number of the sentence. This means that there are no other forms of ça, which makes using it in sentences a little easier.
Using Ça in Common Expressions
Due to its meaning and usefulness as a pronoun, ça is found in a number of common expressions and phrases. Even though it is informal, the French language uses it often.
C'est ça - That's it, that's right
Ça alors - How about that
Ça va ? - How's it going?
Ça marche ! - That works! Okay!
Qu'est-ce que ça ? - What is it/that?
C'est quoi ça ? - What's that?
Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire ? - What does that mean?
Ça m'aide beaucoup - It helps me a lot.
It's interesting to note that the phrase, "Ça c'est une bonne idée." is redundant in its use of "that." Since c'est is included along with ça, it literally translates to, "That (that) is a good idea." Notice how when the two words are reversed in "C'est ça" above, the translation makes perfect sense. This is just another tricky thing to look out for when switching between the two languages.