Il y a can be the translation of “there is” and “there are”, also about duration “ago” and “for” and the translation of “how far” in French.

1 There is, There are:

There is a cat on the table: Il y a un chat sur la table (we say: ya un chat sur la table)
There are 2 books in my bag:  Il y a 2 livres dans mon sac (ya 2 livres…)


-Negative form:

There si no cat: Il n’y a pas de chat (we need “de” before the noun for singular sentence, but il n’y a pas trois chats)

-Question form:

Is there a cat on the table? Y a-t-il un chat sur la table ( a “t” for the pronunciation) or
Est-ce qu’il y a un chat sur la table?

How many books are there in your bag: Combien de livres y a-t-il dans votre sac? or Combien y a-t-il de livres dans votre sac?

Expressions using il y a:

There are 12 months in one year: il y a 12 mois dans une année
What’s up, what’s wrong: qu’est-ce qu’il y a?
I am not happy: Il y a que je ne suis pas content
You are not the only one: il n’y a pas que toi
Some people go too far: il y en a qui exagèrent
Just tell him: il n’y a qu’à lui dire
There is a storm brewing: Il y a de l’orage dans l’air.

2 Duration: ago, for


The shop opened 2 years ago: le magasin a ouvert il y a 2 ans or il y a 2 ans que le magasin a ouvert.
I got back 10 minutes ago: je suis arrivé il y a 10 minutes or il y a 10 minutes que je suis arrivé.


I have not seen him for a long time: il y a longtemps que je ne l’ai pas vu
I have been living here for 10 years: il y a 10 ans que j’habite or que je vis ici.

3 -Distance: How Far:

How far is it from Paris to Lyon? Il y a combien de km de Paris à Lyon?
It is about 400 km: Il y a environ 400 km.
How far is it from here to your home? Il y a combien d’ici à chez toi?
It is 2 km: Il y a 2 km.

Pascal Dherve

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Pascal Dherve

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