French Adverbial Pronoun Y : To Talk about Places

french adverbial pronoun y

Want to sound like a native in French? One way is to learn how to use the “y” pronoun.

Not using small words like y, or en isn’t essential, but by using them you’ll avoid sounding like a beginner.

Okay, so you know about french personal pronouns, but what the heck is the pronoun “y” ?

You know how personal pronouns replace the name of people and sometimes things. Now the French pronoun y, is used to replace the places that have already been mentioned. Useful, right?

What is the adverbial pronoun y?

Y” is the French adverbial pronoun used to refer to places or things that have already been mentioned. Be aware that’s never used for people.

Most commonly, it means “there” in French, but also”here,” or “it.”

The letter “Y” is pronounced like the letter “i” (like the sound “ee” in the word “meet”). Since the pronoun “y” is treated as a vowel sound, we should use liaison when appropriate.

Let’s see some examples :

Je vais au cinéma. → J’y vais avec mes amis.

I am going to the movies. → I am going there with my friends.

As you can see, the adverbial pronoun y replaced “au cinema” in the next sentence. However, if the person you are speaking with doesn’t know who are you talking to, then the usage of the pronoun y remains pointless because nobody will know what are you talking about.

Take a look at the next sentence and note that the place must have been mentioned previously.

Nous(z)y allons à 20 p.m.

We are going there at 8 p.m.

When to use the pronoun y?

  • to replace a place

Je vais à Torino. J’y vais souvent.

l go to Torino. I go there often.

  • to replace a preposition + place

Je participe à ce project. J’y participe.

l take part in this project.

Look at how “y” can replace locations introduced by these prepositions: à, sur, chez, dans 

Je travaille dans ce restaurant. J’y travaille depuis trois mois.

I work in that restaurant.  I have been working there for three months.

  • to replace an obvious or implied places


Stay there.

J’aime la France, j’y vais chaque année. 

l love France, l go there every year.

Even without a preposition, Y can refer to a place that is obvious or implied.

  • to replace verbs that require an indirect object with a preposition à

Je pense à ta décision. J’y pense tout le temps.

l am thinking about your decision. l think about it all the time.

Tu vas à l’école ?  Oui, j’y vais.

Are you going to school? – Yes, I’m going there.

Expressions with French Pronoun Y

Some very common French expressions, include the French pronoun y. It can also be found in words like “there is,” “let’s go,” and allons-y.

Il y a – There is/are

Il y a des enfants là-bas.

There are some kids over there.

On y va – Let’s go

It means literally that we will go (there). In use it means: let’s go, wanna go?, ​here we go.

Allons-y – Let’s go (formally)

The nous imperative aller (to go), followed by the adverb y, is used as a sign of departure or of a new activity.


We must admit, understanding French pronouns en, and y, aren’t the easiest grammar points. Not because of their complexity, but mostly because these pronouns aren’t typical in other languages. Once you master these two French pronouns, you’ll sound less like a beginner, and more like a native French.

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