Categories: French Grammar

En vs Y in French

En vs Y, two little words but very useful, they are used for a noun or a noun phrase in sentences like:

the video is here:

Je réponds à ton email: j’y réponds
I am replying to your email: I am replying to it

Je parle de ma maison: j’en parle
I am talking about my house: I am talking about it

The question is when and how to use them.

1- Y

“Y” for things and animals

Prends garde au chien: Prends-y garde
Be careful with the dog:  be careful with it

Elle pense aux vacances: Elle y pense
She is thinking about her holiday: she is thinking about it

The Rule: “Y” can replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence where the verb introduces them with the word “à”

Répondre à, aller à , penser à…

You need to know the verbs in French to use “y” correctly.

The verb Aller (to go) needs either y or en in short sentences:
J’y vais: I go, I am off (short sentence)
Je vais au cinéma (long sentence)

With people, we prefer to keep the proper pronoun/
Je pense à ma mère  Je pense à elle! (instead of j’y pense).

2- En

“En” for things, animals and people

Charles parle de ses amis: Charles en parle
Charles is talking about his friends: Charles is talking about them

Que penses-tu de ce livre? Qu’en penses-tu?
What do you think of this book? What do you think of it?

The Rule: “En” can replace a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence where the verb introduces them with the word “de”

Parle de, penser de, jouer de…

The verb Aller (to go) needs either y or en in short sentences:
Je m’en vais: I am off (short sentence)

Tu me donnes des fleurs, tu me donnes de l’eau: tu m’en donnes.

3- More rules

“En” represents a part of a bigger quantity or number of something

J’ai acheté des fraises  J’en ai acheté
Je n’ai pas d’argent  Je n’en ai pas
Je n’ai pas d’eau  Je n’en ai pas
J’ai pris des livres  J’en ai pris

En also works with singular countable words: J’ai acheté une voiture = j’en ai acheté une (we add “une” or “un” at the end to be sure we are not talking about several cars)

Y also means “there” or “here”

Je reste là or J’y reste

J’y suis, j’y reste

Pay attention to the name of countries: With feminine ones, we use “en”: je vais en France, but we will say “j’y vais”, no problem with masculine countries: je vais à Cuba: j’y vais.

4- Idiomatic Expressions

Expressions with “y” and “en”:

There is: il y a
Ça y est: here it is, done it!
En avoir assez: to be fed up or to get enough

Aller:

S’en aller: je m’en vais: I am off, I go away
Va-t-en: go away!
Y aller: to go there, to be off: j’y vais
Vas-y: go!

Example:
Tu sais ce que je pense ? Do you know what I am thinking at?
Tu sais que je le pense: You know that I think what I’ve just said
Tu sais que j’y pense: You know that I am thinking about it!
Tu sais ce que j’en pense ? Do you know what I am thinking about it?

QUIZ: EN vs Y in French

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Pascal Dherve

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Pascal Dherve

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