Y and En

Could anyone give me some tips on when these are used, reading things online isn't helping it stick.

Merci Beaucoup!

January 27, 2015


Uses of "En" :

1 – En replaces a QUANTITY: This quantity is likely to be introduce by a partitive article “De, du, de la, de l’, des”, or a number such as “un, une, trois, vingt-huit”… or a fraction “un quart”… or an adverb of quantity “beaucoup de, un peu de”… or an expression of quantity “un kilo de, un litre de, une boîte de…”. Examples:

Je veux 6 pommes = j’en veux 6. (I want six of them) Je bois de l’eau = j’en bois. (I drink of it) Je mange du gâteau = j’en mange. (I eat of it) J’achète des pommes = j’en achète (plusieures – you don’t have to say the “plusieur(e)s” part, but you can). (I buy of it)

Note that you will always repeat the quantity and also the adverb of quantity:

Je voudrais beaucoup de sucre = j’en voudrais beaucoup. (I want a lot of it) J’achète un litre de vin = j’en achète un litre. (I buy a liter of it) Je mange un paquet de petits-gateaux = j’en mange un paquet. (I eat a packet of it)

Remember that PAS is also a quantity: Je ne veux pas de lait = je n’en veux pas. (I don’t want of it)

And “un, une” are also numbers, so they need to be repeated in the answer: Tu as un chien ? Oui, j’en ai un. (Yes, I have one of it)

2 – En replaces a THING introduced by “de, du, de la, de l’, des”:

Je rêve de mes vacances = j’en rêve (I dream of it) Je parle de mon voyage = j’en parle (I speak of it)

The “de, du , des…” often comes from the verb meaning that this particular verb is going to be followed by “de”, and that is why you’d be using a “de” there. This is the case for my examples “rêver de” and “parler de”. So, in order to master EN, you should really learn the most common verbs followed by de in French and train on making sentences using EN with these verbs. When the “de, du, des…” introduce a person, then you must use a stress pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles), Je rêve de Jean = je rêve de lui

3 – En = strong liaison and glidings: Now with “en”, it’s important to note that it’s followed by a strong liaison, and usually part of expressions that glide a lot in spoken French: Il y en a = yan na, Il n’y en a pas = yan na pa

So the negative form is pronounced almost the same way – only the pas (or plus, aucun..) will tell you it’s negative. A lot of French people would do a mistake and write “j’en n’ai pas” when it is actually “Je n’en ai pas”, just because the liaison with “en” in N is so strong that is sounds like the negative, and because we are so accustom to writing “n’ai pas”… It actually calls for a big effort to write “je n’en ai pas”, because the spoken glided French sounds like “jan nay pa”…

4 – En = preposition or adverb? Watch out that “en” can also be a PREPOSITION or an ADVERB, having different meanings:

Il va en France – he goes to france l’avion fait Paris-Boston en 6 heures – it takes the plane 6 hrs to cover Paris-Boston Je vais à Paris en voiture – I go to Paris by car Nous sommes en novembre, en 2012 – we’re in November, in 2012.

5 – “En” is part of many idioms: J’en ai marre = I’m fed up of it, Je m’en vais = I’m leaving of it, Ne t’en fais pas = Don’t worry of it.

Uses of "Y":

1 – Y replaces a PLACE. A place is introduced by a preposition of place which can be “à” but also “sur, sous, en, au, aux…”:

Je vais à Paris = j’y vais (I go there) Je vais en France = j’y vais Je vais au Japon = j’y vais

2 – Y also replaces A THING (never a person) introduced by “à, au, aux, à l’, à la”, Je pense à mon travail = j’y pense.

The “à, au, aux, à la à l’” often comes from the verb meaning that this particular verb is going to be followed by “à”, and that is why you’d be using a “à” there. This is the case for my examples “penser à” and “réfléchir à”. So, in order to master Y, you should really learn the most common verbs followed by à in French. And train on making sentences using Y with these verbs.

Note than when a verb is followed by à + PERSON, you need to use an indirect object pronoun (me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur): Je parle à Pierre = je lui parle or a stress spronoun: “moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles” Je pense à lui – I think of him

You cannot guess, you have to know which verb’s construction asks for which pronoun – indirect object or stress… another difficulty of French…

3 – Il y a states the existence of something – there is, there are:

Il y a des livres sur la table – there are some books on the table. Il n’y a pas de vin – there is no wine Il n’y a plus de bon vin blanc – there is no more good white wine

4 – “Il y a” to talk about the weather. We also use “Il y a” a lot for expressions of weather:

Il y a + partitive article + noun Il y a du soleil – (there is some sun) = it’s sunny out Il y a de la neige – (there is some snow) – it’s snowy out

5 – The glidings with the expression “il y a”

The “a” is the verb “avoir” and can be conjugated: “il y avait, il n’y aura pas…”

The pronunciation in glided spoken French is quite different from the written form:

Il y a = ya, Il n’y a pas de = yapad Il n’y aura pas de = yorapad.

"Y" vs. "En" - We covered both individually, but often on tests you will have to choose to use one or the other. How do they differ? Y and en are both pronouns that go before the verb. Y (ee) means “it” or “there”. En (awn) means “some” or “some of them”, or “of it”. They replace prepositional phrases.

In French, the phrases will begin with à (or any contraction of it), en, sur, sous, chez, devant, derrière, dans, etc. for y; and de (or any contraction of it) or a number for en.

They cannot replace people unless the person is introduced with an indefinite article, partitive, number or quantity. Sometimes y and en have no direct translation in English. Remember that they go before the verb, except in a command, in which they follow the verb and are connected with a hyphen. The -er verbs also add the -s they lost when forming the you (familiar) command.


Do you want some apples? Voulez-vous des pommes? Do you want some (of it)? En voulez-vous? I have three sisters. J'ai trois sœurs. I have three (of them). J'en ai trois. It is in the drawer - Il est dans le tiroir. It is there. Il y est. I am going to Detroit. Je vais à Détroit. I am going there. J'y vais. I am going to go to Atlanta. Je vais aller à Atlanta. I am going to go there. Je vais y aller. Answer the telephone! Répondez au téléphone ! Answer it! (formal) Répondez-y ! Stay there! (familiar) Restes-y ! Don't stay there! (familiar) N'y reste pas.

There are more grammar rules for French found on this post, that you might find useful. I update it as I discover new ones:

Très utile! Merci beaucoup!

I found a page that explains it quite well. Here's the explanation:

Y refers to a previously mentioned or implied place. Y usually replaces a prepositional phrase beginning with something like 'à' , 'chez' , or 'dans' . Y can also replace 'à' + a noun that is not a person, such as with verbs that need à .

En replaces the partitive article + noun or de + indefinite article + noun. In a sentence with a modifier, such as an adverb of quantity or a number , plus noun, en replaces the noun and the modifier or number is placed at the end of the sentence. En also replaces de + noun with verbs and expressions that need de.

Wonderful explanations! I am just adding a smile. In highschool French class (a half a century ago) I still remember our teacher drilling us that, in a sentence "Y" comes before "en" (like the sound a donkey makes) ;)

Haha, I knew that vaguely but now i'll remember it! xD

I have been working on understanding them too. Here is some information that I have found that I hope helps you along with what TashaJ has posted. En can mean some, any, of it. or of them. Y means there.

Thanks for the explanation!

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