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Y and EN

Although these two pronouns are also object pronouns they deserve a section of their own as they can be a bit more difficult to work out.

Like the pronouns presented above (le, lui, leur, etc.), they stand in place of a word or group of words to avoid repetition.

Note that 'y' very often has the meaning of 'there', as in the impersonal expression 'il y a' (there is/are). It can also be used as an indirect object pronoun when the indirect object pronoun refers to a thing rather than a person.

The pronouns 'y' and 'en' are used to replace an expression that would normally have been introduced by 'à' or 'de' respectively.

For example, in the sentence 'Il pense trop à son travail' (he thinks too much about his job), the part in bold could be replaced by 'y' while in the sentence 'Il parle trop de son travail' (he talks too much about his job), the part in bold could be replaced by 'en'. Notice the place of the pronouns: in both cases they will come before the verb (as it is the case for other object pronouns): 'Il y pense trop' and 'Il en parle trop'.

1

See below for some examples of sentences containing y or en. For each of the sentences, can you identify what word or group of words the y or en stands for?

example: Il avait peur de l'eau et il essayait de ne pas y penser lorsqu'il se trouvait en mer.

Here the 'y' stands for 'peur de l'eau': he was scared of water but tried not to think about it (his fright) when he was at sea.

1- Le président congolais, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a accusé le Rwanda d'être à l'origine du soulèvement et d'y participer directement.

2- La situation s'est encore aggravée avec l'arrivée, mardi soir, du typhon Otto, qui venait de balayer Taïwan, en y faisant cinq morts.

3- L'empereur inaugure le nouveau palais le 28 avril 1873 et, en 1879, y rencontre le chancelier allemand, Otto von Bismarck.

4- "S'il veut des informations, il en aura", rétorqua M. Bouygues.

5- D'ailleurs, c'est un produit qui marche très bien : on en vend beaucoup l'été.

6- Nos bibliothèques regorgent de ces romans "sociaux" : on en a écrit, on en écrit encore des tonnes.

7- Un jour il est parti faire le tour du monde mais il n'en est jamais revenu.

  1. 'Y' refers to the 'soulèvement': the Congolese president, Laurent Désiré Kabila, accused Rwanda to be at the origin of the uprising and to directly take part to it (the uprising)
  2. 'Y' refers to 'Taïwan': the situation got even worse with the arrival on Tuesday evening of the typhoon Otto, which had just just swept Taiwan, making 5 casualties there (in Taiwan).
  3. 'Y' refers to 'le nouveau palais': The emperor inaugurated the new palace on the 28th of April 1873 and in 1879, met the German Chancellor Otto Van Bismarck there (in the new palace)
  4. 'En' refers to 'des informations': "If he wants some information, he will get some", replied Mr Bouygues. Note that in French, information is countable: une information: a piece of information, des informations: some information.
  5. 'En' refers to 'un produit': as a matter of fact, it is a product that does very well: we sell a lot of them/it (of the product) in the summer.
  6. 'En' refers to 'ces romans sociaux' : our libraries are full of these 'social' novels : we wrote many of them, we still write tons of them (of these 'social' novels).
  7. 'En' refers to 'le tour du monde': one day he left for a trip around the world but never came back from it (his trip around the world).
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