The pronouns Y and En – Rules and exercises

y-en-french

You could say that these pronouns facilitate the language. We don’t need to repeat the same things if we use them. Let’s look at an example where we repeat the same thing twice:

  • Est-ce que tu vas déménager en France? – Are you going to move to France?
  • Oui, je vais déménager en France – Yes, I am going to move to France.

Would it not be better if we did not have to repeat ”to France”?

  • Oui, je vais y déménager. – Yes, I am going to move there.

You can probably see why these small letters have an important role in the French language.

However, it can be a bit tricky to know when you should use these pronouns. Let us look at some important rules together .

Pronoun Y

1. ”Y” can replace a preposition followed by a place.

A place could be a cinema or a restaurant. In this case, we want to focus on prepositions like:

  • à (to, at)
  • dans (in)
  • sous (under)
  • chez (at someone, among)

And as always, it is easier to see why by using examples:

Question Answer without Y Answer with Y
Vous allez au café?   Oui, je vais au café Oui, j’y vais.
Vous travaillez dans ton bureau? Oui, je travaille dans mon bureau. Oui, j’y travaille.

These are just a few examples. It is important that you get a basic understanding. I will describe the grammatical part in more detail later in this article.

Let’s not worry about that for now .

2. ”Y” can also replace ”à” followed by a thing or an idea (indirect object)

So, this probably sounds a bit confusing. Let’s try to clarify its areas of application.

There are some verbs that are constructed with ”à”. For instance, ”Penser à”.

Let’s see how it can be applied in 3 sentences:

Question Answer without  Answer with
Tu penses à ton examen? Oui, je pense à mon examen. Oui j’y pense
Tu t’intéresses à la culture? Oui, je m’intéresse à la culture. Oui, je m’y intéresse.
A-t-elle assisté à son séminaire?  Oui, elle à assisté à son séminaire. Oui, elle y a assisté.

And yes, this is quite difficult to grasp for a beginner. It is usually easier to see the connection with the prepositions that we described earlier.

However, you’re now aware of the reason why we can use ”Y” instead of repeating certain nouns.

That is a good start .

Important note

There is one thing left to mention that is very important: ”Y” can never replace a person.

This is a rule that you should always have in the back of your mind.

Pronoun EN

”En” has many different areas of application. Let us begin with ”de”.

1. ”En” can replace verbs that are constructed with ”de”.

Earlier, we talked about the verbs that are constructed with ”à”. Now we want to focus on verbs that are constructed with ”de”. Let us look at 2 examples:

Question Answer without En Answer with En
Il s’occupe de la ménage?                    Oui, il s’occupe de la ménage. Oui il s’en occupe.
As-tu rêve de vacances? Oui, j’ai rêvé de vacances  Oui, j’en ai rêvé.

2. It can also replace ”les articles partitifs” (de+noun)

So, ”les articles partitifs”, who are the members of this group?

  • du
  • de la, de l’
  • des

Let’s put them in context:

Question Answer without En Answer with En
As tu acheté du pain?                  Oui, j’ai acheté du pain.                       Oui, j’en ai acheté.
Tu veux de l’eau? Oui, je veux de l’eau. Oui, j’en veux.
Tu mets du ketchup sur la saucisse? Oui, je mets du ketchup sur la saucisse. Oui j’en mets.
Tu veux des fraises?                          Oui je veux des fraises.  Oui, j’en veux.

You can also add a specific number:

Vous avez acheté des pommes?    Oui, j’en ai acheté deux.

 

3. En can also replace a noun introduced by a indéfinite pronoun or an adverb

Two examples of indéfinite pronouns:

  • Quelques: A few
  • Plusieurs: Several

Two exampels of adverbs:

  • Beaucoup: Many/ Much
  • Trop: Too/ Too much

Let’s place them in a context :

Vous avez plusieurs amis? Oui, j’en ai plusieurs
Vous avez beaucoup de problèmes? Oui, j’en ai beaucoup.

4. En can replace a place introduced by the preposition de

We saw earlier that the preposition à is linked to y

Let’s see how we can link en to the preposition de:

  • Ils viennent de Suède?: They come from Sweden.
  • Oui, ils en viennent: Yes, they come from there. 

Exercises

Verbs with Y

I told you earlier that there are some important rules concerning this pronoun. For instance, you can never use ”Y” when referring to a person.

So, what can we do instead?

We need to use ”les pronoms toniques”. I have listed them in this image:

And as always, it’s always easier to understand the areas of application with examples.

Let’s look at some new verbs related to ”Y”:

  • se référer à – To refer to.
  • s’associer à – To join/to go together.
  • s’adresser à- To address, to speak to someone.

 

Now let’s see if we can relate them to ”les pronouns toniques”:

 

  • Je vais me référer à lui – I am going to refer to him.
  • Il va s’associer à eux – He is going to join them.
  • Je m’adresse à eux – I turn to them/I speak to them.

Verbs with En

We can now look at some more verbs that are related to ”En”:

  • Parler de – to speak of
  • Avoir besoin de – to need
  • Se souvenir de – to remember
  • J’en parle – I am speaking about it.
  • Tu as besoin de pommes? J’en ai besoin de 3 – Do you need apples? I need 3 of them.
  • Vous souvenez vous de nos vacances? Oui je m’en souviens – Do you remember our vacation? Yes, I remember it.

We can also use ”les pronouns tonics” to refer to a person:

  • J’ai parle de lui – I speak about him

Factors that you should be aware of

By now, I think you have become aware of the importance of these pronouns. I have tried to explain them to the best of my ability.

However, many questions probably remain in your head. There are many instances when ”en” and ”y” can and should be applied.

The problem is that you will not learn all these areas in your first French course. For instance, in this article, I have talked about verbs that are constructed with ”de” and ”à”. I have tried to avoid talking about COI and COD as it can confuse you.

You will learn these concepts at some point in your studies, and when you do, you will also learn how to implement pronouns when needed.

My point is that I cannot talk about all the aspects surrounding ”en” and ”y” in one article. Why? Because I doubt that anyone will have the patience and interest to read an article that does not stick to the topic.

I have talked a lot about understanding the basic concept in this article. This is probably the most important takeaway from this lesson. I am quite sure about this because I was myself a beginner back in 2015 when I first came across these pronouns.

To make matters worse, I found that it was not just a matter of identifying the right context. I also had to know where to place them.   

6 Comments

  1. Monica February 19, 2023
    • Gustav Dahlman February 20, 2023
  2. Jemjem March 9, 2023
    • Gustav Dahlman March 13, 2023
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    • Gustav Dahlman September 18, 2023

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