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Pronouns replace nouns in a sentence. They are usually quicker ways to refer to a noun and reduce repetition. Types of pronouns include subject pronouns and direct and indirect object pronouns.

Pronouns “y” and “en”

When to use “y”

The pronoun y usually means ‘there’ and the same position rules apply as for direct object pronouns.

Elle est à la Banque. Elle y est pour changer de l’argent. – She is at the bank. She is there to change money.

Je suis allé(e) en France avec ma famille. Nous y sommes allé(e)s en voiture. – I went to France with my family. We went there by car.

y can also mean “it” or “them” and is used to replace a thing (not a person) that is usually introduced by the preposition à. For example:

J’aime jouer au billard / snooker. J’y joue trois fois par semaine. – I like playing snooker. I play it three times a week.

Il faut faire attention à la circulation. Il faut y faire attention. – You’ve got to be careful of the traffic. You’ve got to be cautious of it.

The pronoun “y” replaces:

● Place complements:

Example: Il va à Saint Malo. Il y va. Il est chez lui. Il y est. Elle habite en France. Elle y habite. = He is going to Saint Malo. He is going there. He is at home. He is there. She lives in France. She lives there.

● Nouns of things preceded by the preposition to :

Example: Vous participez à cette activité ? Oui, nous y participons. = Are you participating in this activity? Yes, we are taking part.

* For persons, we use à followed by a tonic pronoun.

Example: Ce pull est à ta maman ? Oui, c'est à elle. / Non, ce n'est pas à elle.= Is this your mum's jumper/sweater? Yes, it's hers / No, it's not hers.

* For verbs of communication, we use him, their before the verb.

Example: Tu téléphones à Albert. Tu lui téléphones. Tu parles aux enfants. Tu leur parles. = You phone Albert. You phone him. You talk to the children. You talk to them.

● Negation is placed before and after pronouns and verbs: Example: Je n’y réfléchis pas. Je n’y songe pas. = I don't think about it. I don't think about it.

When to use “en

The pronoun en replaces nouns in phrases about quantity, or with verbs that are normally followed by de. Its translation in English varies depending on the meaning of the phrase. Like y, en usually comes before the verb.

The pronoun “en” replaces:

● Nouns preceded by the preposition of :

Example: Vous prenez du gâteau. Oui, j’en prends. = You take cake. Yes, I take some.

* When the quantity is specified, it is added at the end of the sentence.

Example: Avez-vous des animaux ? Oui, j’en ai trois. = Do you have any animals? Yes, I have three.

● Verbs that are constructed with the preposition de (of);

Avoir besoin de (+ infinitif) = to need

Avoir l'envie de (+ infinitif) = to feel like

Avoir l'intention de (+ infinitif) = to intend to

Faire de (+ sport/activité) = to do

Jouer de (+ instrument de musique) = to play (an instrument)

Penser de = to think of/about (opinion)

Rêver de = to dream of/about

● Negation is placed before and after pronouns and verbs: Example: Nous n’en voulons pas. Il n’y en a plus. = We don't want any. There are no more.


En is part of the list of French personal pronouns with the function COD (direct object complement)

Example: Nous demandons de nouvelles explications. => Nous en demandons. Nous demandons quoi ? 1 = de nouvelles explications. 2 = en

=> We ask for further explanations. => We ask for some. We ask for what? 1 = new explanations. 2 = in

The COD answers the question: quoi ou qui ? (what or who?)

Y is part of the list of French personal pronouns with the COI function (indirect object complement)

Example: Vous pensez à réserver une leçon avec Cécile. => Vous y pensez. Vous pensez à quoi ? 1 = à réserver une leçon avec Cécile. 2 = Y.

You are thinking of booking a lesson with Cécile => You are thinking of Y. What are you thinking about? 1 = booking a lesson with Cecile. 2 = Y.

Pronouns represent the noun or the nominal group (GN abbreviation in French).

Pronoun from the Latin "Pronomen" means in place of the noun.

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