Using Y in French

Copie de MONTREAL?-17

Q : When should I use pronoun « Y » in a sentence ?

Y replaces a thing or a place that is introduced by a verb + preposition À (and other location prepositions such as AU/AUX/DANS/CHEZ, etc.).

Easy, isn’t it? You can now go back to whatever you were doing 😉


If you want to know more about this pronoun, you can see Y as a short version of « to that place » or « about that thing ». It’s a very useful word that you are going to see in a lot of contexts.


Here’s some examples:

Le cours n’est pas terminé. Je dois y retourner dans quelques minutes.

(Class is not over. I have to go back (to class) in a few minutes.)

If you just say Je dois retourner, your sentence feels incomplete, because we don’t know what you are going back to. Although you can omit « to class » in English (after all, it is implicit), you have to repeat it in French. To make it shorter, however, we use Y to replace the noun.

J’aime aller chez elle. J’y vais chaque semaine.

I like going to her place. I go (to her place) every week.


Je ne vais pas quitter mon travail, mais j’y pense souvent.

I will not quit my job, but I often think about it (= about quitting my job).


J’ai adoré Montréal! Il faudrait qu’on y retourne ensemble!

I loved Montreal. We should go back (to Montreal) together.


Sometimes, the thing that Y replaces is even less obvious.

Allez, tu vas y arriver!

Come on, you can make it! (Y / It = whatever you are trying to do)


J’y vais. On se voit plus tard!

I’m leaving (to some place that is not here). See you later!


You will also use Y with the expression Il y a (there is) and with location prepositions.

Il y a un stylo dans mon sac. / (There (in my bag) is a pen in my bag).


A good idea is to start paying attention to the verbs that are often paired with À or with a similar preposition.

Here’s some verbs that I often use:

Aller à

Penser à

Retourner à

Revenir à

Croire à

Participer à

Faire attention à


Remember that Y never replaces a person. In this case, you will use an indirect object pronoun (me, te, lui, vous, nous, leur) or a stress pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles).

Lucie va bien. Je lui parle tous les jours. (You can’t say « J’y parle ». Ever. Even if you are talking to your dog or your cat, use “Je lui parle”.).

Je ne vois pas souvent ma sœur, mais je pense à elle. (Although it is perfectly fine to use it when thinking about an object or a concept, you can’t say « J’y pense souvent» if you are referring to a person. But I confess that I do it often… and I’m still alive).

Have any question regarding tricky French rules and grammatical concepts? Send them my way!

See also:

Using EN in French

Qui or Que?

Je suis sorti or J’ai sorti?

Pour, pendant, depuis?

C’est ou Il est?

À, en, au?

De or Du?


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