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Il y a – There is, there are, ago

Il y a – There is, there are, ago

Today I’ll cover the highly versatile French expression il y a, which means both “there is” and “there are”, as well as “ago”. Il y a une très bonne leçon aujourd’hui ! There’s a very good lesson today!

Il y a

there is, there are, ago

French lesson explaining the expression il y a, which means there is, there are and ago.

Il y a

Expression origin

In Old French, the verb être (to be) was used in the impersonal expression il est (there is or literally it is). Over time, avoir (to have) was used with the pronoun y, meaning “there”.

There is, there are

These first two example sentences use il y a in the context of “there is”.

Il y a un chat noir et blanc sur le trottoir.

There is a black and white cat on the sidewalk.

I could have written this second example sentence with y a-t-il. This is the inversion structure for asking questions.

Est-ce qu’il y a un problème ? – Non, il n’y a pas de problème.

Is there a problem? – No. There’s no problem.

Ago

Il y a also means “ago”. The structure is: il y a + time, meaning “X amount of time ago”.

Je suis arrivé en France il y a un an.

I arrived in France one year ago.

The construction il y a + amount of time + que also means “ago”.

Il y a un an que je suis arrivé en France.

I arrived in France one year ago.

The expression ça fait + amount of time + que also means ago.

Ça fait un an que je suis arrivé en France.

I arrive in France one year ago.

Weather

Il y a is also used for talking about the weather in French.

Quel temps fait-il? – Il y a du soleil.

How’s the weather? It’s sunny.

Il y a in different tenses

In the imperfect tense, il y avait means “there were”.

Il y avait deux filles dans la rue.

There were two girls in the street.

In the future tense, il y aura means “there will be”.

Demain, il y aura une tempête de neige.

There will be a snow storm tomorrow.

In the passé composé, il y a eu means “there was”.

Hier, il y a eu un accident.

There was an accident yesterday.

Conclusion

Et voilà ! Now you know how to use il y a in French! Now check out our related lesson covering depuis (since).

More French expression lessons by David

Il y a
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David Issokson
David Issokson is a lifelong language learner and speaks over seven languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private lessons. When not teaching or writing his French Word of the Day lessons, David enjoys his time skiing, hiking and mountain biking in Victor, Idaho.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language learner and speaks over seven languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private lessons. When not teaching or writing his French Word of the Day lessons, David enjoys his time skiing, hiking and mountain biking in Victor, Idaho.

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