The Y and EN Pronouns in French – Never Get Confused Again!

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Mastering the Use of “EN” and “Y” Pronouns in French

Are you grappling with the enigmatic world of French pronouns “EN” and “Y”? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we will unravel the mysteries of these pronouns and equip you with the knowledge you need to wield them confidently in your French conversations.

The “EN” Pronoun

Let’s start by dissecting the “EN” pronoun.

 Replacing Complements with “EN”

In French, the “EN” pronoun always precedes the verb and typically replaces a complement introduced by the preposition “DE.”
EN can step in for an indirect object complement (COI) introduced by “DE.”
For instance:

– “Elle parle souvent de ce pays.” (She often talks about this country.) -> “Elle en parle souvent.” (She talks about it often.)

In this context, “EN” takes the place of a complement answering the question “DE QUOI?” (About what?).

Pronoun EN

Exceptions with People

A word of caution: “EN” cannot replace people in this manner.
For example:

– “Chloé parle toujours de Paul.” (Chloé always talks about Paul.) -> “Chloé en parle toujours.” (Chloé talks about him always.)

In such cases, a tonic pronoun (e.g., moi, toi, lui, elle) must be used instead.

 Replacing Complements of Place

“EN” can also stand in for a complement of place introduced by “DE.”

For instance:

– “Il revient de Marseille.” (He’s coming back from Marseille.) -> “Il en revient.” (He’s coming back from there.)

In this case, it answers the question “D’OÙ?” (From where?).

 Handling Partitive Articles

“EN” can replace a direct object complement (COD) introduced by a partitive article such as “du,” “de,” “de la,” or “des.”

For example:

– “Veux-tu du poisson?” (Do you want some fish?) -> “Oui, j’en veux, merci.” (Yes, I want some, thanks.)

Replacing Indefinite Articles

“EN” also replaces a COD introduced by an indefinite article:

For instance:

– “As-tu un vélo?” (Do you have a bike?) -> “Oui, j’en ai un.” (Yes, I have one.)

Note that when using the indefinite article “UN” or “UNE,” you must specify the quantity after the verb. However, with the plural indefinite article “DES,” quantity specification is not obligatory.

 Handling Expressions of Quantity

“EN” can be used to replace expressions of quantity, such as “UN PEU DE” (a little), “BEAUCOUP” (a lot), “PLEIN DE” (plenty of), “UN KILO DE” (a kilogram of). In these cases, you must specify the quantity after the verb.

For example:

– “As-tu beaucoup d’animaux?” (Do you have many animals?) -> “Oui, j’en ai beaucoup!” (Yes, I have many!)

Combining “EN” with Negation

“EN” can also be used in conjunction with negation.

For example:

– “As-tu une robe pour le mariage?” (Do you have a dress for the wedding?) -> “Non, je n’en ai pas/plus/aucune.” (No, I don’t have any/anymore/none.)

The “Y” Pronoun

Now, let’s dive into the world of the “Y” pronoun.

 Replacing Place Complements with “Y”

In French, the “Y” pronoun precedes the verb and replaces a complement of place or a complement introduced by “À.”

Y replaces a complement of place:

For instance:

– “Tu vas à Lyon la semaine prochaine.” (You’re going to Lyon next week.) -> “Tu y vas la semaine prochaine.” (You’re going there next week.)

The key difference between “EN” and “Y” when they replace a complement of place is that “Y” answers the question “OÙ?” (Where?) while “EN” answers “D’OÙ?” (From where?).

Pronoun Y

 Avoiding Common Mistakes

A common mistake among French learners is combining “Y” with the complement of place, as in “Je peux y aller aux toilettes” instead of “Je peux aller aux toilettes.”

 Replacing COI with “Y”

“Y” can also replace a COI introduced by the preposition “À” when it answers the question “À QUOI?” (To what?).

For example:

– “Elle pense à ses vacances.” (She’s thinking about her holidays.) -> “Elle y pense.” (She’s thinking about them.)

However, “Y” cannot replace people in this context. A tonic pronoun must be used instead.


Expressions to Remember

“EN” and “Y” are used in various French expressions:


– “S’EN ALLER” means “to go away” or “to leave.”

For instance:

– “Paul s’en va.” (Paul is leaving.)

In this case, “EN” doesn’t replace anything specific.


– “EN VOULOIR À QUELQU’UN” means “to be angry with someone” or “to hold a grudge against someone.”

For example:

– “Elle en veut à ses frères.” (She’s angry with her brothers.)

 “IL Y A”

– “IL Y A” means “there is” or “there are.”

For example:

– “Il y a beaucoup d’expressions en français.” (There are many expressions in French.)


– “ÇA Y EST” means “that’s it” or “it’s done.”

For instance:

– “Ça y est, je suis en vacances !” (That’s it, I’m on vacation!)


– “S’Y CONNAÎTRE EN QUELQUE CHOSE” means “to be knowledgeable about something.”

For example:

– “Il s’y connaît bien en mécanique.” (He’s knowledgeable about mechanics.)


– “Y ALLER” means “let’s go” or “we’re going.”

For instance:

– “On y va!” (Let’s go!)

Practice exercise

Congratulations! You’ve now gained a deep understanding of how to wield “EN” and “Y” pronouns in French with confidence. Test your knowledge by replacing the red complements in the following sentences:

  1. Jean et Lise sont allés à la soirée. Jean et Lise ………..
  2. Je vais prendre de la soupe. Je …………………

Feel free to write your answers in the comments of the video and I’ll be delighted to provide feedback. Here is the direct link to the video to write your comment : https://youtu.be/36xEmtWfcsk

If you found this lesson helpful, don’t forget to like and subscribe to our channel, OuiTeach here, for more valuable French lessons.

Merci beaucoup, and see you in the next video!

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