I'm reading a book with this sentence:
Parce que j'en ai une centaine comme ça à la réception.
and according to google it means the same as it is, as with ...j'ai une... instead of ...j'en ai une.... What is the reason for the en usage?
I think this "en" in this case means something like "of these" (I deduce this from "une centaine", which seems to refer to a countable noun in the plural form), and what "these" are depends on the context, i.e., what has been said before.
This would be my attempt at translating the sentence:
Because I have about a hundred of these at the reception.
It is indeed a difficult prounoun and has been from the start for me, and for the same reason you mentioned - we're so often unsure about why it's being used before the verb. After I watched a video I understood it much better, but I still sometimes get a bit confused. I'm actually on active look-out for such sentences, am nothing all of them down and will seek answers. If you haven't already, this video is a must-watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJt1vxCmRus
Having read the sentence again, I can actually quite clearly see the requirement of «en» now. It's to do with quantity without a specified object. Unfortunately that's the video I used to learn this point of grammar, I don't know any English equivalents or translations. Can you read French? If so, there are subtitles.
I personally think learning French grammar with French videos is far better than with English videos - it's where I took grammar after my Duolingo tree. While watching, I make note of any words I don't know, pronunciation, my comprehension improves from listening and I learn French grammar... ça fait d'une pierre quatre coups !
To explain in this particular example: the pronoun «en» translates to «of them» in English. J'EN ai une centaine - I have a hundred OF THEM. Other examples: Il veut cinq ordinateurs (correct), il en veut cinq (correct), il veut cinq (incorrect). Il veut cinq alone is incorrect French. En has other uses though, explained in the video. Your example covers quantity, which he talks about.
I had thought it was something like that (of them) but I was thinking, it. But I thought I was wrong because then the "comme ca" is unnecessary. You could just say "I have a hundred of them at the reception" instead of "I have a hundred of them like that at the reception." But I'm used to French expressions not being the same as English. I have this whole other question I posed that explains that:
Anyways, thanks for the help! Also I'm going to take your advice on reading the subtitles in the video. Is that the youtube channel you use to learn grammar or are there others? Thanks again.
Well, the «comme ça» does add detail. I don't know what the object is but I will imagine a very random example: let's say it was about keys. Let's compare the two sentences: ''I have a hundred keys in the reception''. ''I have a hundred keys like that in the reception''. The sense is quite different. The first one is simply 100 keys, with zero additional detail. The second sentence, we know all keys are similar/the same to what we are comparing. Either way, the pronoun «en» stays necessary, as we are talking about quantity.
Yes, that YouTube channel is primarily what I used for grammar, I watched every single one in the playlist. :) There's also Français Authentique.
Ok thanks. But how it is « en » has lost me completely. Do we always refer to such mountains as « du » and « de la » ?
No, I think the "de" (and thus "en") is due to the verb "faire".
"Faire X de Y" means "turn Y into X" /"make Y into X".
Edit: Here are some examples:
"Faire de cette vision une réalité" etc: http://www.linguee.fr/francais-anglais/search?source=auto=faire+de
Actually in my previous example I wasn't explaining my mindset correctly, I guess after knowing the answer I was thinking more of the redundancy. Originally I thought "I have a hundred like that" was sufficient and it was "it" or "of them" that was unnecessary. I guess I have to remember to always use en whether a redundancy exists or not.
In the book its hundred letters exactly the same so "comme ca" is necessary.
Okay, following what I said about us often being unsure why «en» is preceding a verb... this happens far more rarely now, but still sometimes, and I said I would note down from now any such sentences I see. Here's one I came across just now.
« Avec sa riviére glacée en guise d'épine dorsale, le mont Wakefield est un monstre glacial à déconseiller aux riders novices. Chutes de neige, couloirs étroits et traces ultra-rapides EN font un sommet réservé aux competiteurs aguerris ».
Why could that sentence not suffice without the confusing usage of « en » before the verb « font » ?
Chutes de neige, couloirs étroits et traces ultra-rapides EN font un sommet réservé aux compétiteurs aguerris ».
The "en" refers back to Mont Wakefield. The sentence would not work without "en" because that reference would be missing: WHAT is turned into a summit that is reserved to (certain types of competitors)?
I think this could be reformulated in the following way: "Chutes de neige, couloirs étroits et traces ultra-rapides font du Mont Wakefield un sommet réservé aux compétiteurs aguerris."
But this would be less elegant because "Mont Wakefield" would be mentioned twice in that paragraph. It's much more elegant to mention it just once, and then refer back to it with "en".
5 minutes later update: another sentence found with confusing pre-verb usage of « en »...
« La rumeur circule déjà qu'il est tellement dégoûté qu'il est parti se cacher. Mais quelque chose m'a dit qu'on n'EN a pas terminé avec lui ».
This one I can't understand at all. There is no quantity. My first guess was that « en terminer » is replacing « terminer de faire quelque chose » or «terminer de le supporter », but I checked google and it seems we say «terminer à », not « terminer de »...