Getting to Know French Pronouns "Y" and "En": A Thorough Introduction (2023)

Getting to Know French Pronouns "Y" and "En": A Thorough Introduction (1)

By Michael Cristiano Last updated:

Got French pronouns buzzing around your brain?

Well, you can run, but you can’t hide.

Every French learner discovers pretty early on that masteringpronouns is one of the most challenging parts of learningsentence structure, which is crucial to understanding the language.

The most confusing of these pronouns arey anden.

They pop up all over the place, and it’s not always clear what they’re doing or why.

They buzz around and disturb your concentration when you’re just trying to enjoy a nice French story or a bit of French conversation.

You can try toignore them or pretend they don’t exist, but they’ll be back before long…maybe when you least expect it.

Yep, you’ll have to face these little guys eventually. In fact, you’ll have to befriend them and start summoning them up yourself.

Just try advancing in anyintermediate French courseor achieving fluency without them, and see how far you get!

You wouldn’t expect a couple of words that are one and two letters long to display such complex usage and pack so much meaning.

Fortunately, they’re pretty friendly once you get to know them. And now’s as good a time as any, right?

Buckle up: It’s a long ride.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Adverbial Pronouns: French Imposters

At first glance,yoren may look like your average French pronoun being used to replace a noun in a phrase, but I’m here to warn you that this simple assumption is incorrect.

Even though these two words are pronouns, they act as if they were adverbs:Yanden are used to replace words in a phrase that denote quantities, qualities, properties and relations. Like adverbs do.

In that way, they are pronouns and adverbs at the same time. French shape-shifters, if you will.

(Video) 2 Common French Pronouns: Y vs EN

So what exactly do they replace? Unfortunately, that’s a hard question to answer.

Most commonly, the pronouny replaces indirect objects following the preposition à(to), and it roughly means “there”in English (the key word here being “roughly”).

The pronounen replaces indirect objects following the prepositionde (of), and it roughly translates to “some”or “any” in English (again, roughly!).

It’s essential to note that the adverbial pronounen is entirely different from the prepositionen (in).

Finding Opportunities for Practice

Before we get into all the rules and no-nos and particularities of usingyanden, it’s worth mentioning that the best ways to understand the peculiarities of any language are to practice it and hear it being spoken.

In addition to encountering these adverbial pronouns out in the Wild West ofFrench books, movies and television (and you will encounter them often), there are a number of online tests you can use for yandenin particular.

About.com offersa good quiz to help you master these pronouns.

Columbia University has one, too.

Even better, and speaking of the Wild West, the University of Texas has two quizzes—one fory and one forenso you can practice them separately.

You can also hear these pronouns in use by native French speakers on FluentU. Listen out for them in videos like TV show and movie clips, commercials, news segments, interviews and more.

FluentU also allows you to save words as flashcards and has review quizzes that adapt to your learning level. The flashcards also have clips from other videos on FluentU that contain the word for more context. And, in addition to learning about the pronouns y and en, you can use FluentU to check contextual meanings of any word in the subtitles just by clicking on it.

Le Pronom “Y”(The Pronoun “Y”)

As I previously mentioned, yreplaces constructions that include the preposition à, but you shouldn’t stop reading just yet. There’s more! Check out the various uses and limitations of the pronouny.

à + location noun

In its simplest use, the pronouny replaces the indirect object of the verb when it is followed by a noun that is a location.

For example, look at the following phrase:

Vous allez à la bibliothèque?(Are you going to the library?)

In case it’s unclear, labibliothèque is a location.Now, if you wanted to make a really long sentence, you can say something like:

Oui, je vais à la bibliothèque.(Yes, I am going to the library.)

(Video) How And When To Use The French Pronouns Y And EN // French Grammar Course // Lesson 33

You will notice, however, that the response soundsformal and rigid and no one talks like that. What weneed is a pronoun to replaceà la bibliothèque.

That pronoun isy. Observe:

Oui, j’y vais.(Yes, I’m going there.)

à + non-person noun

Y can also replace àwith non-person nouns that are not locations. When a verb takes an indirect object, you can replace that indirectobjectwith the pronoun y.

Check out thisexample using the nounle livre(the book):

Tupenses à ton livre.(You’re thinking about your book.)

Tu y penses.(You’re thinking about it.)

Location constructions

Though the pronouny is generally used to replaceàwith non-person and location nouns, you can also use it to replace other prepositions so long as they occur before a location noun.

For example, you can use it with phrases that includechez, a preposition often used to refer to being “at” someone’s home,ordans (in).

Elle étaitchez moi. (Shewas at my house.)

Elle y était.(She was there.)

The no-nos

As with all French grammar, the use of the pronouny is pretty restrictive. You cannot use y to replace à +a person or à + a verb.

For example, it doesn’t make sense to use it in the following ways:

Je réponds à Marie.(I’m responding to Marie.)

J’y réponds.

J’hésite à lire le livre.(I hesitate to read the book.)

J’y hésite.

There are also a number of expressions that have y in them. These include, for example, il y a (there is) and allons-y (let’s go). It may be confusing for learners to wrap their heads around these expressions and the role that y plays in them, but don’t worry about it! These are fixed expressions, so you can take them at face value.

(Video) FRENCH PRONOUNS Y AND EN - How & When To Use

Le Pronom “En” (The Pronoun“En”)

In the same way thaty replaces constructions with àto give the meaning of “there,”enreplaces ones that usede(of) to give the meaning of “some”or “any.” Check out these situations where you should useen.

de +(indefinite article) + noun

First and foremost,en can replace nouns that use the partitive articlede.The partitivedeis the equivalent of saying “some”in English. Check out this example of one and how it came be replaced by the adverbial pronoun:

Tuas du thé?(Do you havesome tea?)

Oui, j’en ai.(Yes, I have some.)

Furthermore,en can replacede and a noun that has an indefinite article (un orune):

Ila besoin d’une boîte?(Does he need a box?)

Non, il n’en a pas besoin.(No, he doesn’t need one.)

Quantifiers

En can replace modifiers such as quantifiers (i.e., something that gives a quantity or a number).

J’ai beaucoup de livres. (I have a lot of books.)

J’en ai beaucoup.(I have a lot of them.)

Nous voulons quatre livres.(We want four books.)

Nous en voulons quatre. (We want four of them.)

Keep in mind, however, that even thoughen replaces the noun and de if it is included, the modifier remains in its place in the sentence. That is why bothbeaucoup andquatre remained in the sentence even whenen joined in on the fun.

Set verb expressions

Encan replacede and the following nounin situations wherede is part of the verb phrase itself.

For example, se souvenirde is a set verb expression meaning “to remember.”

Elle se souvient de malettre.(Sheremembers my letter.)

Elles’en souvient.(She remembers it.)

The no-nos

Likey, you cannot useento replacede + a person orde+ a verb.

(Video) Practise your French pronouns EN vs Y

For example, using it in thefollowingsentences makes no sense, and if you say these, a French speaker will look at you like you have brie cheese for brains:

Elle parle de moi. (She’s talking about me.)

Elle en parle.

Je choisis de faire mes devoirs.(I’m choosing to do my homework.)

J’en choisis.

The Pronoun Hierarchy

Remember those endlessrules that plague the French language? Well, the rules regardingy anden don’t stop here.

Oh, French, you’re so obsessed with order and so worried that sentences will end up a free-for-all! If speakers use more than one pronoun in a phrase, it has to be done in a particular order. Talk about being controlling, French!

In these situations, your direct object personal pronouns come first (me, te, nous, vous), and then come your optional inanimate direct pronouns (le, la, les). Next come your indirect objects (lui, leur), and finally our new friendsy anden.

Check it out:

me, te, nous, vous
le, la, les
lui, leur
y

en

So, for example:

J’ai donné du thé à ma mère. (I gave some tea to my mom.)

Je lui en ai donné.(I gave some to her.)

Are you ally-and-en-ed out?

Yeah, me too.

Don’t worry, though.

You’ll get the hang of it!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

(Video) Pronoms "EN" et "Y" en français: règles, exemples, test #frenchgrammar

FAQs

How do you use pronouns y and en in French? ›

Most commonly, the pronoun y replaces indirect objects following the preposition à (to), and it roughly means “there” in English (the key word here being “roughly”). The pronoun en replaces indirect objects following the preposition de (of), and it roughly translates to “some” or “any” in English (again, roughly!).

What is the pronoun y in French? ›

The adverbial pronoun y can replace a place or the object of the preposition à. Y is most commonly equivalent to "there" or "here," but may also be translated by a preposition plus "it."

Are y and en personal pronouns? ›

Y and en are adverbial pronouns. This means that they stand in place of an adverb phrase. A simple adverb phrase is made up of a preposition followed by a noun.

Where do you place en and y in a sentence? ›

Y and en are adverbial pronouns. Like all pronouns, their purpose is to replace a noun. Y and en act like adverbs in a sentence, as they're used to describe verbs. Y is usually used to replace "à," "chez," or "dans" + a noun in a sentence, and in these cases, would normally be translated as "there" in English.

How do you know when to use en in French? ›

We use “en” in French to replace a noun modified by a notion of quantity.
...
En in French Is Linked to a Notion of QUANTITY
  • Je bois de l'eau = j'en bois. (“ ...
  • Je mange du gâteau = j'en mange. ( ...
  • J'achète des pommes = j'en achète (plusieurs) – (because of the “des”). ...
  • J'ai deux enfants = j'en ai deux. (
7 Jun 2021

Why is Y pronounced like that in French? ›

The letter 'Y' is fairly uncommon in French and is used in just a few words. Just as it is in English, the French 'Y' can be either a consonant or a vowel. As a vowel, it's pronounced like the 'Y' in happy. When 'Y' is at the beginning of a word or syllable, it is a consonant and is pronounced just like the English 'Y.

What are Y all pronouns? ›

Y'all is the main second-person plural pronoun in Southern American English, with which it is most frequently associated, though it also appears in some other English varieties, including African-American English and South African Indian English.

Is Y direct or indirect French? ›

Indirect object pronouns y and en. The indirect object pronouns y and en are used to replace inanimate objects (ideas and things). Y is used to replace inanimate objects for verbs followed by à and en is used for inanimate objects for verbs followed by de.

What are the 3 types of pronouns in French? ›

There are two main types of pronouns in French: personal and impersonal. However, both kinds have various different types within them: Personal Pronouns: Subject.
...
Impersonal Pronouns:
  • Adverbial.
  • Demonstrative.
  • Subject.
  • Indefinite Demonstrative.
  • Indefinite.
  • Interrogative.
  • Negative.
  • Possessive.

What are the 5 subject pronouns in French? ›

The list of French subject pronouns is je (j'), tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles.

How do you introduce yourself in French for beginners? ›

Country the formal way to introduce. Yourself is bonjour je m'appelle de sri sante de vocentre.

Can en replace a person? ›

Confusion about using en to replace people

The lesson says you can't use the pronoun "en" to replace people.

What are the 23 pronouns? ›

Pronouns are classified as personal (I, we, you, he, she, it, they), demonstrative (this, these, that, those), relative (who, which, that, as), indefinite (each, all, everyone, either, one, both, any, such, somebody), interrogative (who, which, what), reflexive (myself, herself), possessive (mine, yours, his, hers, ...

What are the 12 pronouns? ›

There are 12 personal pronouns for a person or group, and they are: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us and them.

How do you use Y in French examples? ›

The French Pronoun Y Replaces A PLACE.
  1. Je vais à Paris = j'y vais. I'm going to Paris = I'm going there.
  2. Je vais en France = j'y vais. I'm going to France = I'm going there.
  3. Je vais au Japon = j'y vais. I'm going to Japan = I'm going there.
14 Mar 2022

What is the order of pronouns in French? ›

(French) Order of Pronouns
Subject Pronounsje, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles, etc.
Ne
Personal Pronounsme, te, se, nous, vous,
Direct Object Pronounsle, la , les, l'
Indirect Object Pronouns:lui, leur
5 more rows
11 Sept 2018

How do you use pronoun en? ›

The adverbial pronoun en can replace a quantity, a place, or the object of the preposition de.
...
This little word has many possible translations:
  1. any.
  2. one.
  3. some.
  4. about it / them.
  5. from it / them.
  6. of it / them.

What is en oui mean? ›

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 15, 2009 is: ennui • \ahn-WEE\ • noun. : a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom. Examples: In reaction to the ennui that he was feeling after working for twelve years in an unchallenging position, Darrell began to look for a new career.

Do I use en or dans? ›

En can mean "in" or "to" when followed directly by a noun that doesn't need an article. Il est en classe. -> He's in school. Dans indicates the amount of time before which an action will occur.

Why is the word en used in French? ›

A partitive article in French (du, de la, des) is an unknown quantity of something. In English, this translates to “some” or “any.” “En” replaces the partitive article and the noun.

Why is y called i griega? ›

The letter is called i/y griega, literally meaning "Greek I", after the Greek letter ypsilon, or ye.

What two sounds does y make? ›

y can make the /y/ sound as in “yellow” y can make the long i sound as in “shy” y can make the long e sound as in “happy”

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

Why is Y all so popular? ›

Have y'all heard? “Y'all” is in the mainstream now. While historically associated with the southern United States, “y'all” is becoming a popular choice for people who want to address multiple people.
...
The Original Second-Person Plural In Old English.
SingularPlural
Thirdhe/she/theythey
2 more rows
16 Apr 2019

Where is Y all commonly used? ›

The form y'all is heard primarily in the Southern United States, and nationwide in AAVE. Recently, the form has begun to be used by other American English speakers as well, though still less commonly than you guys. For other second-personal plural pronouns, see you.

When was Y all first used? ›

The Oxford English Dictionary pegs the first printed appearance of “you all” as we might understand it to 1824, according to a 2015 Slate article, in reference to an “odd phrase” children learned from slaves. The dictionary places the first “y'all” in print in 1856, appearing in a snippet of dialect.

Can y replace dans French? ›

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).

What are the 7 direct object pronouns in French? ›

Direct objects can be replaced by direct object pronouns (me, te, le, la, nous, vous, les), which will agree in number and gender with the noun they replace. Direct object pronouns precede the verb in all sentences except affirmative imperatives.

What is Je Tu Il Elle called? ›

Subject pronouns (e.g.: je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles)

What are the 17 être verbs in French? ›

allé, arrivé, venu, revenu, entré, rentré, descendu, devenu, sorti, parti, resté, retourné, monté, tombé, né et mort.

How many French pronouns are there? ›

French has six different types of subject pronouns: the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural. Notes: * When referring to more than one person in the 2nd person, “vous” must be used.

Is French SVO or SOV? ›

Rule #1: French is SVO

Like many other languages throughout the world, French is what we call an SVO language. This means that the default word order is: Subject – Verb – Object.

What are the 4 main French verbs? ›

Big 4 French verbs
  • etre = to be.
  • avoir = to have.
  • aller = to go.
  • faire = to do.

How do you know if a subject is masculine or feminine in French? ›

How do you know when to use masculine vs feminine words? The best place to start when trying to figure out the gender of a French word is by looking at the ending of the word. Words that use the articles le or un are going to be masculine, and words that use the articles la or une are feminine.

What are the 10 prepositions in French? ›

10 Essential French Prepositions
  • 1 – à (to, at, in + city). ...
  • 2 – de (from, of, about). ...
  • 3 – chez (at/to someone's place). ...
  • 4 – en (in, by). ...
  • 5 – sur ≠ sous (on ≠ under). ...
  • 6 – au dessus de ≠ en dessous de (above ≠ under – without touching the object)
16 Jun 2021

How can I introduce myself in 10 lines in French? ›

Yourself here we go. Comment what's your name bonjour commentable hello what's your name etudes in

How do you write a full introduction in French? ›

Je m'appelle (name), mais je me fais appeler (name) - My name is (name), but I prefer to be called (name) Je me présente - I'd like to introduce myself.

Can the pronoun en be used for people? ›

The adverbial pronoun “en” is used to refer to previously mentioned nouns (i.e., things, places, or people) or infinitives preceded by a form of the preposition “de”.

What is the difference between en and A? ›

"en", is a preposition which is often translated as "in". "A" is a preposition which is often translated as "to".

What does en mean in French? ›

In French, the prepositions en and dans both mean "in," and they both express time and location. They are not, however, interchangeable. Their usage depends on both meaning and grammar.

What pronouns do Lgbtq use? ›

Common pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs. There are other nonbinary pronouns. It is important to ask people what their pronouns are. If you have questions, politely ask the person if they feel comfortable giving examples of how to use those pronouns.

What are Fox pronouns? ›

punkndisorderly. jade: fox/fox/foxs/foxs/foxself fox/fox/foxs/foxs/foxself
Subject Pronounfox
Object Pronounfox
Possessive Determinerfoxs
Possessive Pronounfoxs
Reflexive Pronounfoxself
16 Nov 2019

What are the 7 basic pronouns? ›

There are seven types of pronouns that both English and English as a second language writers must recognize: the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the relative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun.

What pronoun is for girls? ›

She/her/hers and he/him/his are a few commonly used pronouns. Some people call these “feminine” and “masculine” pronouns, but many people avoid these labels because not everyone who uses he/him/his feels “masculine.”

How do you teach pronouns? ›

Here are 5 steps you can use to teach your child how to correctly use the he she pronouns to describe other people.
  1. Pointing to “he” and “she” ...
  2. Using He and She in Short Phrases. ...
  3. Using “He” and “She” in Sentences. ...
  4. Using “He” and “She” When Describing Story Books or Making up Stories.

Can you give me a list of pronouns? ›

I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, them. There are two kinds of personal pronouns: Subjective pronouns and objective pronouns.

› ... › Pronouns ›

Pronouns replace nouns. A different pronoun is required depending on two elements: the noun being replaced and the function that noun has in the sentence. In En...
Personal pronouns are great for informal writing, but when we write formal essays, we should try to avoid using the kind of conversational language that results...
While this effect may be appropriate - or even desirable - in casual writing, conversational language is generally considered inappropriate in formal writing. I...

Where does y go with reflexive verbs in French? ›

Reflexive pronouns are always placed before the auxiliary verb (être/avoir) and the past participle (participe passé).

Is en for masculine or feminine? ›

Feminine countries use AU and Masculin countries use EN.

Where do you put pronouns in French? ›

1) Pronouns always go just before the verb which they complement. Quand mon copain me donne des chocolats, je les mange tout de suite. (When my boyfriend gives me chocolates, I eat them right away.) If there are modal verbs, they still go just before the verb which they complement.

Where is Pronom en used? ›

The pronoun "en" is used to replace the preposition de/du/des (of) followed by people or things. En will translate to some, or about/from/of + if/him/her/them/us/you/me. Whenever you see the word "de," you will use en to replace both de and the noun that follows it. Ex: Est-ce qu'il parle de son livre? >

Is Y direct or indirect French? ›

Indirect object pronouns y and en. The indirect object pronouns y and en are used to replace inanimate objects (ideas and things). Y is used to replace inanimate objects for verbs followed by à and en is used for inanimate objects for verbs followed by de.

What are the 5 reflexive pronouns French? ›

The French reflexive pronouns are me, te, se, nous, vous, and se. They always agree with the subject they refer to and correspond to the English words myself, yourself etc.

How do you remember reflexive verbs in French? ›

Reflexive verbs have a special reflexive pronoun before the verb: “me, te, se, nous, vous, se” (in addition to the French subject pronoun “je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles”).

Why is pizza feminine in French? ›

Gender in French is etymological. Pizza is feminine because it is in Italian, and also, we “feel” that.

Can en replace a person? ›

Confusion about using en to replace people

The lesson says you can't use the pronoun "en" to replace people.

How do you remember gender in French? ›

There are always exceptions in French, as there are in any language, so the trick is to remember patterns that are 80 or 90% accurate, in addition to memorizing the gender of words.
...
Tips to Remember the Gender of French Words.
FeminineMasculine
-eille-eau*
-ouille-is
-onde-isme
-une-ment
6 more rows
1 Aug 2018

What are the 5 subject pronouns in French? ›

The list of French subject pronouns is je (j'), tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles.

What are the 7 direct object pronouns in French? ›

Direct objects can be replaced by direct object pronouns (me, te, le, la, nous, vous, les), which will agree in number and gender with the noun they replace. Direct object pronouns precede the verb in all sentences except affirmative imperatives.

What is the order of pronouns in French? ›

(French) Order of Pronouns
Subject Pronounsje, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles, etc.
Ne
Personal Pronounsme, te, se, nous, vous,
Direct Object Pronounsle, la , les, l'
Indirect Object Pronouns:lui, leur
5 more rows
11 Sept 2018

What are the 3 types of pronouns in French? ›

There are two main types of pronouns in French: personal and impersonal. However, both kinds have various different types within them: Personal Pronouns: Subject.
...
Impersonal Pronouns:
  • Adverbial.
  • Demonstrative.
  • Subject.
  • Indefinite Demonstrative.
  • Indefinite.
  • Interrogative.
  • Negative.
  • Possessive.

How many French pronouns are there? ›

French has six different types of subject pronouns: the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural. Notes: * When referring to more than one person in the 2nd person, “vous” must be used.

What does en means in French? ›

The French preposition en is never followed by an article such as le, du or des. en is used to talk about a place. It can be the equivalent of the English to or in.

› en-and-y ›

The French pronoun en does not usually refer to people. How we translate it into English depends on where en is found in French. en is used with verbs and phras...

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