"Cakes? There are some left."
Translation:Des gâteaux ? Il en reste quelques-uns.
Correct. It is very common for French to require the absent item referred to by the pronoun to be further identified. Quelques-uns/some absolutely must refer to the cakes because en tells us this the case.
Just in case the listener thought that the speaker had veered off to start talking about cupcakes, en brings the focus back to a previously mentioned or understood something that is absent from the sentence. The previously mentioned or understood item in this example is cakes. It may seem obvious what the speaker is referring to but French requires that it be emphasized so as to be perfectly clear.
En and Y fulfill that function. Which one is used depends on the construction of the sentence.
I'll preface this by saying I'm not a native speaker, but this is my understanding of the topic. Anyone else out there, feel free to correct me.
So, you can make sentences that use the actual noun:
Il reste un gâteau = there is a cake left
Il reste des gâteaux = there are some cakes left
This is where 'en' comes in. It is a pronoun that refers to things previously mentioned. In this case, cakes.
Il en reste = There is one left
Il en reste deux = There are two (of them) left
Il en reste quelques-uns = There are some (of them) left
A sentence like "Il reste deux" is incorrect. The pronoun is, as far as I know, required.
Ok well the problem here is still redundancy. As I said this is idomatic in french so the il refers to the «some» that is left. There is still no need to add «qui». Basically the equivalent in english would be « There is some of who left.» A better translation would be «Il en reste quelques-uns» because it clarifies what is left". P.s.«il y en a qui reste» doesn't make sense so stop trying to say it.
Here let me put it a little more simply. The reason you are making this mistake is because you are mixing two types of sentences to say what is left.« Il y en a certains qui restent ( à n'importe où)» and «il en reste quelques-uns» since you've only learned one construction, I assume, you are failing to realize that, while its the same in English, it is not in French.
I am also interested in the opinion of a native French speaker. "Il y en a qui restent" is definitely valid in French, but I am not sure if in the present case. The examples I have in mind are all about "rester" as a human will (close to English "to stay") "Quand il fait froid il y en a qui restent chez soi" "Il y en a qui restent assis, sans rien dire"
In our case it is clearly "remain after someone took some" and I would also use "Il reste des gâteaux"
Hmm, good question. It sounds weird to me, but http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa021601et.htm seems to disagree, so maybe