Il y a: Ago & There is/are In French Meaning, Examples

il y aIn this lesson you will learn how to say something that you did in the past in French – and in particular how to express “ago”. To say ago in French you must use the word “Il y a”. The pronunciation for this is “Eel yee a” and it has two definitions: “There are” and “Ago”.

Please watch the movie below then read through the practice sentences and explanations. In the first group of practice sentences (see below video) you’ll see Il y a used in its first meaning: There are. In the second group you’ll see it used in its second meaning: Ago. By the way – I’ve also introduced this lesson as it gives you a good chance to practice the passé composé (past tense).

Note that there are two other great ways of expressing events that took place in the past: Ça fait, which means, “It’s been” and depuis, which means since.

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Example sentences

First meaning – there is, there are

  • Il y a deux filles. There are two girls.
  • il y a quelqu’un dans la maison. There is somebody in the house.
  • Il y a beaucoup de gens au chômage. There are a lot of unemployed people.

Second meaning – ago

  • Je suis allé il y a sept ans. I went seven years ago.
  • Elle est venue la première fois il y a un an. She came for the first time one year ago.
  • J’ai lu le livre il y a deux semaines. I read the book two weeks ago.
  • Il a vécu en France il y a vingt ans. He lived in France twenty years ago.
  • Nous sommes allés aux États-Unis il y a un an. We went to the USA one year ago.
  • Vous êtes venus la deuxième fois il y a trois mois. You came for the second time three months ago.
  • Elle a commencé ses études en langues étrangères il y a dix ans. She started her studies in foreign languages ten years ago.
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