Q: What is “en” in French, and how should I use it?
A: In a previous post, we saw that the preposition EN can be placed before a feminine country (Je vais en France). But did you know it is also a pronoun? Although they may seem complicated at first, French pronouns simplify your sentences. Pronouns are short words that replace a person or a thing that is already implicit, instead of being repeated all over again.
There are two main reasons to use EN.
1- To replace a partitive or a quantity
Remember partitives DU, DE LA, DE L’, DES? Yes, those. They can easily be replaced by EN, once that your interlocutor knows what you are referring to.
-Tu joue du piano? (Do you play piano?) / -Oui, j’en joue à l’occasion. (Yes, I play (it) sometimes).
-Tu as des enfants? (You have kids?) / -Oui, j’en ai trois. (Yes, I have three).
–Il ne reste plus de lait?? J’en ai acheté hier! (There’s no milk left?? I bought some yesterday!).
Same goes for indefinite articles such as UN, UNE and numbers. Don’t forget to repeat them at the end of the sentence, though. Otherwise, the sentence feels incomplete.
-Tu as un chien? Oui, j’en ai un. (Do you have a dog? Yes, I do have one.).
-Tu veux une bière? / Ok, je vais en prendre une. (You want a beer? Ok, I’ll take one).
-J’aime tellement la pizza que j’en ai acheté deux (I like pizza so much that I bought two).
2- To replace a thing introduced by VERB + DE
Some French verbs are like Batman and Robin. They usually work in pair with a preposition. When it is the case, you can replace DE and the object it introduces by a simple EN.
–Il parle de son travail? (He talks about his work?) / –Oui, il en parle souvent. (Yes, he often talks about it.)
-Tu as besoin d‘argent? (Do you need money?)/ Oui, j’en ai vraiment besoin (Yes, I really need it).
–Il viendra ce soir? (Will he come tonight?) / –J’en doute… (I don’t think (he will come)).
-Ne t’inquiète pas, je m’en occupe! (Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it!).
Bonnes vacances! Profites-en bien! (Have a good holiday! Enjoy (it)!)
Here’s some famous VERB + DE duos you can use with EN :
parler de (to talk about)
rêver de (to dream of)
profiter de (to enjoy, to make the most of)
avoir besoin de (to need)
s’occuper de (to take care of)
douter de (to doubt)
avoir peur de (to be afraid of)
se servir de (to use)
* Remember that EN only replaces a concept or a thing. When you want to refer to a person, use pronouns like “lui”, “elle”.
-Elle parle encore de Marco? / Oui, elle parle de lui tous les jours.