How to use the pronoun Y in French

The French pronoun Y replaces a PLACE 

Here are two examples to get started.  You’ve probably seen these and wondered why the Y is there.

  • On y va  – Let’s go (there)
  • Il y a – There is / There are

CLICK HERE FOR A LESSON ON THE PRONOUN “EN”

👉 Scroll down to watch my comprehensive video lesson on the French pronoun Y 👈




Y refers to a previously mentioned or implied place.
*Y is not used to replace a person. 
To replace people you need to use an indirect object pronoun:  me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur
Y is normally translated by “there” in English. 
Many times we don’t need to say “there” in English, but you can’t avoid it in French. 
That’s why you need this pronoun.
Y usually replaces a prepositional phrase beginning with a preposition of location like à, chez , dans, sur, etc .
Y replaces a preposition (other than any form of «de») + a place or a thing.

Examples

In these examples the pronoun Y means THERE.

Are you going to the bank today?

No, I’m going (there) tomorrow.
Tu vas à la banque aujourd’hui ? 

Non, j’y vais demain.

*note that the Y comes right before the verb in the present tense.
She’s not going to the mall. 

She’s not going (there).
Elle ne va pas au centre commercial. 

Elle n’y va pas. 

*note the placement of ne / pas when using the pronoun Y.
We’re going to the store.

Do you want to go (there)?
Nous allons au magasin.

Tu veux y aller ?

*note that when you have an infinitive in the sentence the Y comes right before it.
He was at Jean’s house.

He was there.
Il était chez Jean.

Il y était.

*note that even when using another tense like the imperfect the Y comes right before the  verb.
They waited in front of the restaurant. 

They waited (there).
Ils ont attendu devant le restaurant. 

Ils y ont attendu. 

*note that in the passé composé the Y comes right before the helping verb
I didn’t put the cards on the table. 

I didn’t put them there.
Je n’ai pas mis les cartes sur la table. 

Je n’y ai pas mis les cartes.

*note the placement of ne / pas when using Y with negation in the passé composé.

The French pronoun Y replaces a THING

Y refers to a previously mentioned or implied thing when that thing is preceded by À, AU, À LA, AUX, À L’

*This can be confusing because you will be tempted to replace a thing by a direct object pronoun.

Use direct object pronouns when the thing is not preceded by À.
Many verbs in French are followed by the preposition À, and it is with these verbs that you will often need to use the pronoun Y. 
Here are just a few of the most common French verbs followed by À: (find more here)

Penser à something (like an idea)
Je pense à ton idée.J’y pense.

Réfléchir à something (like a problem)
Tu réfléchis au problème? Tu y réfléchis?

Arriver à faire something (like homework)
Il arrive à faire ses devoirs. Il y arrive.

S’habituer à something (like living in France)
Je m’habitue à vivre en France. Je m’y habitue.

Réussir à faire something (like understanding)
Je réussis à comprendre ce qu’il me dit. J’y réussis.

S’intéresser à something (like history)
Nous nous intéressons à l’histoire. Nous nous y intéressons.

Répondre à something (like an email)
Vous répondez à son email. Vous y répondez.

More examples

In these examples the pronoun Y means IT.

I’m responding to a letter.
I’m responding (to it).
Je réponds à une lettre.
J’y réponds.
He’s thinking about our trip.
He’s thinking about it.
Il pense à notre voyage. 
Il y pense.
You have to obey the law.
You have to obey it.
Tu dois obéir à la loi.
Tu dois y obéir.
Yes, I attended the meeting.
Yes, I attended (it).
Oui, j’ai assisté à la réunion.
Oui, j’y ai assisté.
I’m going to think about your proposal.
I’m going to think about it.
Je vais réfléchir à votre proposition.
Je vais y réfléchir.

French Pronouns Y and EN

This lesson @ LLL French Academy is for you if you find yourself confused as to how and when you should use the French pronouns Y and EN, and you’ll learn how to do all of this in three tenses (negation included).

Included:

  1. Downloadable video lesson on the pronouns Y and EN.
  2. 6 page lesson guide with rules, examples, and quick tips.
  3. 3 online multiple choice quizzes
  4. 75 practice cards with answer key

Step 1: Watch the video grammar lesson about the pronouns Y and EN. Even if you don’t really know what they are in English (or if they even exist in English), by the end of this lesson you’ll have a much better understanding. Before you watch the lesson, be sure to download your 6 page lesson guide where you’ll find all of the rules and examples given in the lesson. You’ll even get a few helpful hints, and it will be a handy guide to add to your study resources.

Step 2: You will have three online multiple choice quizzes to take. Each quiz has ten questions, and they are in three different tenses: present tense, passé composé, and futur proche. These quizzes will help you out a lot before moving on to the 75 practice cards.

Step 3: Now it’s time to really challenge yourself. I’m including a set of 75 practice cards (no multiple choice answers) to challenge you in 3 tenses (and with negation)! Don’t worry, an answer key is included so that you can easily check your work. I’m including a paper free version that you can open up on your device as well as a version with 4 cards per page that you can print and cut out in case you enjoy being away from the screen sometimes. You’ll be able to use this resource anywhere to truly master the French pronouns Y and EN.


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