The French adverbial pronouns “Y” and “En” follow the same kind of logic. It’s a double logic meaning that for each pronoun there are 2 main points to understand.
1 – The French Pronoun Y Replaces a PLACE.
A place is introduced by a preposition of place which can be “à” but also “sur, sous, en, au, aux…”:
- Je vais à Paris = j’y vais
- Je vais en France = j’y vais
- Je vais au Japon = j’y vais
When you study this, the key is to know well the rules on prepositions of places in French.
2 – The French Pronoun Y also Replaces A THING (never a person) introduced by “à, au, aux, à l’, à la”
Upper Intermediate Level
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- Je pense à mon travail = j’y pense
- Je réfléchis aux problèmes internationaux – j’y réfléchis
The “à, au, aux, à la à l'” often comes from the verb meaning that this particular verb is going to be followed by “à”, and that is why you’d be using a “à” there. This is the case for my examples “penser à” and “réfléchir à”.
So, in order to master Y, you should really learn the most common verbs followed by à in French. And train on making sentences using Y with these verbs.
Note than when a verb is followed by à + PERSON, you need to use an indirect object pronoun (me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur):
- Je parle à Pierre = je lui parle
Or a stress pronoun: “moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles”
- Je pense à lui – I think of him
You cannot guess, you have to know which verb’s construction asks for which pronoun – indirect object or stress… another difficulty of French…
3 – Il y a States the Existence of Something – There is, There are
- Il y a des livres sur la table – there are some books on the table.
- Il n’y a pas de vin – there is no wine
- Il n’y a plus de bon vin blanc – there is no more good white wine
4 – “Il y a” to Talk About the Weather
We also use “Il y a” a lot for expressions of weather
- Il y a + partitive article + noun
- Il y a du soleil – (there is some sun) = it’s sunny out
- Il y a de la neige – (there is some snow) – it’s snowy out
5 – The Glidings With the Expression “il y a”
The “a” is the verb “avoir” and can be conjugated: “il y avait, il n’y aura pas…”
The common pronunciation in glided spoken street French is quite different from the written form:
- Il y a = ya
- il n’y a pas de = yapad
- il n’y aura pas de = yorapad
To train on the pronunciation of “il y a” in spoken French, check out my unique downloadable French audiobooks, featuring different speeds of recording and enunciation, and focussing on today’s modern glided pronunciation, exclusively on sale on French Today.