Passer au contenu principal

IMPERSONAL IL

As seen before, 'il' is generally used as a subject pronoun, translated as he or it (therefore refering to a person, concept or thing for example). However, it is important to also bear in mind that, sometimes, it can be part of an expression in which it will not directly refer to something or someone in particular but is rather part and parcel of an expression. In that case you, should not try to identify the person, concept or things that it refers to since there is not such a thing. You could draw a parallel in English with expressions such as 'it rains' or 'it is two o'clock'.

Similar structures will be used in French, thus those two sentences would translate as 'il pleut' and 'il est deux heures'. There are a lot of expressions in French that use the impersonal 'il' but the most well known by student of French is probably 'Il fait' (usually followed by indication of wheather: chaud, froid, beau, ...) and other meteorological expressions (il pleut, il neige, il tonne, ...); here are the most common other expressions you are likely to come across:

Il faut One must/it is necessary to
Il vaut mieux It's best to
Il y a/ il est/il existe There is/are
Il est It is
Il reste (trois personnes) (Three people) are left/ remain
Il importe de It is important to
Il se trouve que It happens that
Il semble/il paraît It seems
Il est heureux It is fortunate
Il en est ainsi. It is so.
Il y va de (sa vie) (His life) is at stake
Il s'agit de It is about
Il est possible It is possible
Il se peut It is possible
Il se passe (quelque chose) (something) is going on
Il était une fois Once upon a time
Il est temps It is time
Il est question de It is about