French Pronouns Y Vs. En – Tutorial w/ Example Sentences

French pronouns y vs enThe French pronouns y and en can cause a lot of confusion, even for an intermediate student. In a nutshell, use y to replace objects for verbs followed by à and use en to replace objects for verbs followed by de. This page offers an in-depth explanation to the difference between y and en.

indirect object pronoun y

The indirect object pronoun y is used to replace inanimate things and ideas and is used specifically with verbs followed by the preposition à. Another common use of the pronoun y is to mean “there”.

example sentences with y

Notice in all the example sentences below the objects are all inanimate. If there were people with verbs followed by à the indirect object pronouns lui and leur would have to be used. Here the pronoun y translates best to “it”. Notice how everything following the à gets shrunk down in to y.

  • Je pense à mes vacances. -> J’y pense. I’m thinking about my vacation. I’m thinking about it.
  • Je songe à mon avenir. -> J’y songe. I’m thinking about my future. I’m thinking about it.
  • Je réponds à la petite announce. -> J’y réponds. I’m answering the classified ad. I’m answering it.
  • Il répond à ta lettre. Il y répond. He’s answering your letter. He’s answering it.
  • Je m’intéresse à l’histoire française. Je m’y interesse. I’m interested in French history. I’m interested in it.

negation with y

In the negation the y stays in front of the verb and wrap ne…pas around y and the verb.

  • Je ne pense pas à mes études. Je n’y pense pas. I’m not thinking about my studies. I’m not thinking about it/them.
  • Je ne goûte pas à la sauce. Je n’y goûte pas. I’m not tasting the sauce. I’m not tasting it.

passé composé with y

In the passé composé place y before the auxiliary verb.

  • J’ai pensé à la situation. J’y ai pensé. I thought about the situation. I thought about it.
  • J’ai répondu à l’invitation. J’y ai répondu. I answered the invitation. I answered it.

examples where y means “there”

When y means there other prepositions besides à can come into play such as en, au/à la, sur, chez or dans.

  • Je vais en France. -> J’y vais. I’m going to France. I’m going there.
  • Il est dans le bureau? -> Oui, il y est. Is he in the office? Yes, he’s there.
  • Ils sont à la plage? -> Oui, ils y sont. Are they at the beach? Yes, they’re there.
  • Elle est chez elle? -> Oui, elle y est. Is she home? Yes, she’s there.
  • Il est sur le toit? -> Oui, il y est. Is he on the roof? Yes, he’s there.

expressions with y

  • Vas-y! Go for it! Go ahead!
  • Allez-y! Go for it! go ahead.
  • On y va? Shall we go?
  • Allons-y. Let’s go.
  • J’y vais. I’m going.

indirect object pronoun en

The indirect object pronoun en also replaces inanimate things and ideas. It comes directly before the verb and is used specifically with verbs followed by the preposition de. The name of the game here is understanding that the usage of de triggers en.

example sentences with de

  • Je me souviens de mon enfance. -> Je m’en souviens. I remember my childhood. I remember it.
  • Je m’occupe des détails. -> Je m’en occupe. I take care of the details. I take care of them.
  • J’ai envie de manger une glace. -> J’en ai envie. I want to eat an ice cream. I want to (eat some).
  • Je parle de mes projets. -> J’en parle. I talk about my plans. I talk about them.
  • J’ai peur de sa présence. -> J’en ai peur. I’m afraid of his presence. I’m afraid of it.
  • Je me sers de ce livre. -> Je m’en sers. I use this book. I use it.

negation with en

In the negation en remains before the verb and wrap ne…pas around en and the verb.

  • Je n’ai pas peur de la nuit. -> Je n’en ai pas peur. I’m not afraid of the night. I’m not afraid of it.
  • Je ne parle pas de tes opinions. -> Je n’en parle pas. I’m not talking about your opinions. I’m not talking about them.
  • Je ne m’occupe pas de ton travail. -> Je ne m’en occupe pas. I’m not taking care of your job. I’m not taking care of it.

passé composé with en

In the passé composé place en before the auxiliary verb.

  • J’ai parlé de tes idées. -> J’en ai parlé. I talk about your ideas. I talked about them.
  • J’ai eu envie de partir aujourd’hui. -> J’en ai eu envie. I wanted to leave today. I wanted to.
  • Je me suis souvenu de ton histoire. -> Je m’en suis souvenu. I remembered your story. I remembered it.

other uses of the pronoun en

en = some

Use en to replace a noun following the indefinite or partitive articles. Again, the trigger for the usage of en is the preposition de!

  • Tu veux du fromage? Oui, j’en veux bien, merci. Want some cheese? Yes, I’d like some, thanks.
  • Je mange des bonbons. T’en veux? I’m eating candy. Want some?

faire expression usage

Use en to replace activity names with faire expressions.

  • Tu fais du vélo? Oui, j’en fais. Do you do bike riding? Yes, I do it.
  • Tu fais de la méditation? Oui, j’en fais. Do you do meditation? Yes, I do it.

‘one of them’ usage

En replaces a noun preceded by un or une.

  • Tu as une voiture? Oui, j’en ai une. Do you have a car? Yes, I have one (of them).
  • Tu as un vélo? Non, je n’en ai pas. Do you have a bike? No, I don’t have one.

quantity usage

Use en with expressions of quantity. Again, these expressions use de and therefore trigger the usage of en.

  • J’ai assez de temps. -> J’en ai assez. I have enough time. I have enough.
  • Tu as beaucoup d’argent! -> Tu en as beaucoup! You have a lot of money! You have a lot. 
  • Je mange trop de chocolat. -> J’en mange trop. I eat too much  chocolate. I eat to much (of it).

Use en when describing coming from places. Venir is followed by de. Hence, en.

  • Je viens de la plage. J’en viens. I’m coming from the beach. I’m coming from there.
  • Je viens du magasin. J’en viens. I’m coming from the store. I’m coming from there.

En replaces nouns introduced by numbers.

  • Mon ami a une voiture. Moi, j’en ai deux. My friend has one car. I have two (of them).
  • Tu as deux maisons. Moi, j’en ai trois. You have two houses. I have three (of them).

Lastly, note that when dealing with people and pets with verbs followed by à and de we don’t use y and en. Use the stressed pronoun.

  • Je pense à mon ami. Je pense à lui.
  • Je m’occupe de ton chien. Je m’occupe de lui.
Related Lessons
Practice Exercises

Sign Up For A FREE Trial French Lesson On Skype And Get Instant Access To My French Pronunciation Crash Course.

Get the French Pronunciation Crash Course!