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French Grammar from RapideFrench.com

Pronouns: y and en

En means of it, of them, some or any.

Examples:

  • Belles pommes. J'en veux trois. = Nice apples. I want three (of them).
  • Café chaud! J'en veux. = Hot coffee! I want some (of it).

Sometimes we don't use the of in English. For example J'en ai besoin translates directly as I have need of it, but we would normally say I need it.

y generally means there

Examples:

  • Il est chez nous? Oui, il y est. = Is he at ours? Yes, he is there.
  • Je vais à Bristol. J'y vais. = I'm going to Bristol. I go there.

Note that en and y go before the verb (as you can see in all 4 examples above) except in affirmative commands where it goes after with a hyphen e.g. Restes‐y! (Stay there!). However this doesn't apply to the negative i.e. N'y reste pas! (Don't stay there!)

GCSE+ (GCSE level 9 or A Level pupils)

y is a pronoun which replaces a noun introduced by à or au or dans e.g. je joue au football (I play football) j'y joue (I play it).

en is a pronoun which replaces a noun introduced by du, de la or des e.g. je joue du piano (I play piano) j'en joue (I play it).

Key notes about y and en:

  • Notice how y and en move before the verb. If they are both used at the same time, then the y goes before en. For example Vous avez vu beaucoup de poissons dans la mer? (Have you seen many fish in the sea?) becomes Vous y en avez vu beaucoup (Have you seen many of them there?).
  • Look out for the difference between sentences with two verbs and sentences that use être or avoir or aller to indicate the past or future. E.g. Elles vont passer leurs vacances à Bristol (They spend their holidays in Bristol) becomes Elles y vont passer leurs vacances whereas Elle veut parler de ses vacances (She wants to talk about her holidays) becomes Elle veut en parler.