Easy Learning French

en and y - Easy Learning Grammar French

  • en and y do not usually refer to people. How we translate them into English depends on where en and y are found in French.

1 en

  • en is used with verbs and phrases normally followed by de to avoid repeating the same word.
Si tu as un problème, tu peux m’en parler.If you’ve got a problem, you can talk to me about it. (en replaces de in parler de quelque chose)
Est-ce que tu peux me prêter ce livre? J’en ai besoin.Can you lend me that book? I need it. (en replaces de in avoir besoin de quelque chose)
Il a un beau jardin et il en est très fier.He’s got a beautiful garden and is very proud of it. (en replaces de in être fier de quelque chose)
  • en can also replace the partitive article (du, de la, de l’, des).
Je n’ai pas d’argent. Tu en as?I haven’t got any money. Have you got any?
‘Tu peux me prêter des timbres?’ – ‘Non, je dois en acheter.’‘Can you lend me some stamps?’ – ‘No, I have to buy some.’
  • en is also used:
  • as a preposition
  • with the present participle of verbs
  • When en is used with avoir, with il y a or with numbers, it is often not translated in English but can NEVER be missed out in French.
‘Est-ce que tu as un dictionnaire?’ – ‘Oui, j’en ai un.’‘Have you got a dictionary?’ – ‘Yes, I’ve got one.’
‘Combien d’élèves y a-t-il dans ta classe?’ – ‘Il y en a trente.’‘How many pupils are there in your class?’ – ‘There are thirty.’
J’en veux deux.I want two (of them).

2 y

  • y is used with verbs and phrases normally followed by à to avoid repeating the same word.
‘Je pensais à l’examen.’ – ‘Mais arrête d’y penser!’‘I was thinking about the exam.’ – ‘Well, stop thinking about it!’ (y replaces à in penser à quelque chose)
‘Je ne m’attendais pas à ça.’ – ‘Moi, je m’y attendais.’‘I wasn’t expecting that.’ – ‘Well, I was expecting it.’ (y replaces à in s’attendre à quelque chose)
  • y can also mean there. It can be used to replace phrases that would use prepositions such as dans (meaning in) and sur (meaning on).
Elle y passe tout l’été.She spends the whole summer there.
Regarde dans le tiroir. Je pense que les clés y sont.Look in the drawer. I think the keys are in there.

3 Word order with en and y

  • en and y usually come BEFORE the verb.
J’en veux.I want some.
Elle en a parlé avec lui.She talked to him about it.
En êtes-vous content?Are you pleased with it/them?
Comment fait-on pour y aller?How do you get there?
N’y pense plus.Don’t think about it any more.
  • In orders and instructions telling someone to do something, en or y come AFTER the verb and are attached to it with a hyphen (-).
Prenez-en.Take some.
Restez-y.Stay there.
TipThe final -s of -er verbs is usually dropped in the tu form used for orders and instructions. When an -er verb in the tu form is used before en or y, however, the -s is not dropped, to make it easier to say.
Donne des bonbons à ton frère.Give some sweets to your brother.
Donnes-en à ton frère.Give some to your brother.
Va dans ta chambre!Go to your room!
Vas-y!Go on!
  • en and y come AFTER other direct or indirect object pronouns.
Donnez-leur-en.Give them some.
Il m’en a parlé.He spoke to me about it.
Key points
  • en is used with verbs and expressions normally followed by de to avoid repeating the same word.
  • en can also replace the partitive article.
  • When en is used with avoir and il y a or with numbers, it is often not translated in English but can never be missed out in French.
  • y is used with verbs and expressions normally followed by à to avoid repeating the same word.
  • y can also mean there and may replace expressions that would be used with dans and sur or some other preposition indicating a place.
  • en and y usually come before the verb, except in orders and instructions telling someone to do something, when en or y follows the verb and is attached to it with a hyphen.
  • en and y come after other direct or indirect object pronouns.

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