En – Adverbial Pronoun

Du café ? J'en ai - French adverbial pronoun en
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Pronom adverbial

The adverbial pronoun en can replace a quantity, a place, or the object of the preposition de. This little word has many possible translations:

  • any
  • one
  • some
  • about it / them
  • of it / them

Par exemple…

– Voulez-vous du café ?
– J’en ai déjà.
  – Do you want some coffee?
– I already have some.
– Combien d’enfants as-tu ?
– Je n’en ai pas.
  – How many kids do you have?
– I don’t have any.

Using en

En most commonly replaces de plus a noun, though in certain constructions it can replace just a noun or even a phrase.

1. En with indefinite and partitive articles

En replaces an indefinite or partitive article plus a noun.

Par exemple…

Il cherche des idées.
 > Il en cherche.
J’en ai une.
  He’s looking for ideas.
 > He’s looking for some (of them).
I have one (of them)
Tu manges des épinards ?
 > Tu en manges ?
 
J’en veux aussi.
  Are you eating spinach?
 > Are you eating some (of it)?
    Are you eating (some of) it?
I want some too.

 While the words (in parentheses) are optional in English, en is required in French: Il cherche, J’ai une, Tu manges, and Je veux are not complete sentences. The person you’re talking to would be left wondering "you have one what?" or "you want what?" despite the seemingly obvious answers. En provides an essential link to the noun in the sentence that precedes it.

2. En with numbers

En replaces the noun after a number. Note that the number itself is maintained at the end of the sentence.

Par exemple…

J’achète 5 bouteilles.
 > J’en achète 5.
    J’achète 5.
  I’m buying 5 bottles.
 > I’m buying 5 (of them).
J’ai une fille.
 > J’en ai une.
    J’ai une.
  I have one daughter.
 > I have one.

3. En with quantities

En replaces the noun after an indefinite adjective or replaces de + noun after an adverb of quantity. Again, the adjective/adverb itself is tacked on to the end of the sentence.

Par exemple…

J’ai plusieurs anoraks noirs.
 > J’en ai plusieurs.
    J’ai plusieurs.
  I have several black jackets.
 > I have several (of them).
L’hôtel a beaucoup de charme.
 > L’hôtel en a beaucoup.
    L’hôtel a beaucoup.
  The hotel has a lot of charm.
 > The hotel has a lot (of it).

4. En with places

En can replace de + a place or an adverb of place.

Par exemple…

Je rentre de Paris.
 > J’en rentre.
  I’m returning home from Paris.
 > I’m returning home from there.
Il vient de là.
 > Il en vient.
  He’s coming from there.

4. En with verbs that need de

With French verbs that must be followed by de plus a noun, en can replace de + that noun:

Par exemple…

Que pensez-vous de cette décision ?
 > Qu’en pensez-vous ?
    Que pensez-vous ?
  What do you think about this decision?
 > What do you think (about this)?
J’ai besoin d’un stylo.
 > J’en ai besoin.
    J’ai besoin.
  I need a pen.
 > I need one / it.

5. En with clauses

En can also refer back to a preceding sentence or clause.

Elle est enceinte. J’en suis certain.   She’s pregnant. I’m certain of it.
Il a perdu son emploi, et j’en suis malade.   He lost his job and I feel sick about it.

6. En in set phrases

There are a number of verbs and expressions which include en with no apparent antecedent. Note that some of them may even be followed by de plus a noun.

en avoir assez (de)   to have had enough (of)
en avoir marre (de)   to be fed up (with)
en avoir ras le bol (de)   to have had it up to here (with)
en être à   to be at a certain point, to be part of
en finir de faire   to never stop doing
en pincer pour (informal)   to have a big crush on
en rester   to let the matter rest
en revenir à   to return to (what we were discussing)
en tenir pour   to have a crush on, fancy
en venir à   to (finally) be in a position to
en vouloir (informal)   to really want to win, succeed
en vouloir à qqun   to be resentful, think badly of someone
     
s’en aller   to go away
s’en faire   to worry
s’en prendre à qqun   to lay into, attack someone
s’en rapporter à   to rely on
s’en retourner (archaic)   to journey back, return
s’en revenir (archaic)   to come back
s’en tenir à   to limit oneself to
s’en venir (archaic)   to come, approach
     
c’en est fait de   that’s the end of
ce qu’il en coûte   what it costs
Je vous en prie.   You’re welcome. (Literally, I beg you about it.)
ne pas en revenir   to not be able to get over something

  En is also a preposition.

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French adverbial pronoun en

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