The pronoun ‘y’ is French for ‘there’, so it can replace any phrase that concerns a place, for example:

Nous allons au cinema. Nous y allons. – We’re going to the cinema. We’re going there.

Il vit en France. Il y vit. – He lives in France. He lives there.

Tu restes dans un village. Tu y restes. – You stay in a village. You stay there.

The phrase ‘il y a’ means ‘there is’ or ‘there are’:

Il y a un chien dans le jardin. – There is a dog in a garden.

Il y a beaucoup de choses à faire. – There are lots of things to do.

If a verb is followed by à, then y can be used as a pronoun to replace à and the phrase or word that follows it:

Je pense à l’histoire. J’y pense. – I am thinking about the story. I’m thinking about it.

On nous invite au théâtre. On nous y invite. – We’re invited to the theatre. We’re invited there.

If the pronoun ‘y‘ is used together with the object pronouns ‘me‘, ‘te‘, ‘se‘, ‘nous‘, ‘vous‘, ‘le’, ‘la‘, ‘les‘, ‘lui‘ or ‘leur‘, ‘y‘ will follow them, as in these examples:

Je l’ai rencontré à la banque. Je l’y ai rencontré. – I met him at the bank. I met him there.

Elle s’est décidée à partir. Elle s’y est décidée. – She has decided to leave. She has decided on it.

With thanks to Elizabeth Allen

Read more French language learning tips…