You often hear French speakers use these little "en" and "y" words in their sentences.

But you have no idea how or when to use them.

Why do they say "J'y vais samedi" and "J'en mange tous les soirs"?

These pronouns, called complement pronouns, are very important in French and very useful in oral conversations.

If you want to improve your oral fluency and speak like a Frenchman, you need to master the complement pronouns "y" and "en".

Today, I'm going to play down the idea you have of these pronouns and give you my tips on how to use them simply without getting in your head ! 

 

#A complementary pronoun : what is it ?

First of all, you need to understand what a pronoun is and what it's used for.

A better understanding of pronouns will allow you to make better use of these complement pronouns.

The function of a pronoun :

First of all, let's remember what a pronoun is for.

It may not be clear to you yet, so let's do a quick reminder.

Here is an illustration of a simple sentence : 


Illustration of a simple sentence in French

 

The primary function of a pronoun is to replace a noun or a nominal group.

Here the personal pronoun subject replaces the subject of the sentence.


Illustration of the pronoun function in French

 

The function of a complement pronoun :

The function of the complement pronoun is to replace a complement nominal group

It avoids a repetition of the complement in a sentence.


Illustration of the complement pronoun function in French

 

 

#The complementary pronoun "en" : 

The complement pronoun "en" replaces a nominal complement group that is constructed with the preposition "de" (d' - du - la - des).
 

  • It can replace an indeterminate quantity introduced by the preposition "de" :

- Vous prenez du poulet ?
- Oui, je vais en prendre.

 

When the quantity is determined, it is added at the end of the sentence :

- Elle a combien d'enfants ?
- Elle en a trois.

 

  • It can replace the complement introduced by a verb that is constructed with the preposition "de" :

- Tu te s'ouviens de son numéro de téléphone?
- Oui, je m'en souviens.

 

  • It can replace the complement introduced by an adjective that is constructed with the preposition "de" :

- Vous êtes satisfait de votre nouvelle voiture ?
- Oh oui ! J'en suis très satisfait.

 

⚠️ If the following complement is an animated being (person or animal), the preposition "de" is kept and replaced by a tonic pronoun :

- Tu te souviens de mon père ?
- Oui, je me souviens de lui

 

 

#The complement pronoun "y" : 

The complement pronoun "y" replaces a nominal complement group that is constructed with the preposition "à" (au - aux).
 

  • It may replace a place complement introduced by the preposition "à" :

- Elle va à la plage ?
- Oui, elle y va.

 

  • It may also replace a place complement which is not introduced by the preposition "à" :

- Tu vas dans ce magasin ?
- Oui, j'y vais.

  • It can replace a complement introduced by a verb built with the preposition "à" :

- Est-ce que tu pense à quitter ton travail ?
- Non, je n'y pense pas.

 

#How do I know whether to use the complement pronoun "y" or "en" ?

To make it easier for you to understand these two complement pronouns and to know when to use one or the other, I have created this mindmap :
 

How do I know whether to use the complementary pronoun "y" or "en"?

 

Complement pronouns now have no more secrets for you

If you still have doubts, test your understanding with this exercice right under ⬇️

I'll see you soon for new adventures in French, of course ! 🇫🇷