En – Adverbial Pronoun

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 vin ?
-J’en ai déjà.
-Do you want some wine?
-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 adjectives and adverbs of quantity

En replaces the noun after the adjective or de + noun after the adverb. 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

Many French verbs 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.

c’en est fait de that’s the end of
ce qu’il en coûte what it costs
s’en aller to go away
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
en finir de faire to never stop doing
s’en prendre à qqun to lay into, attack someone
en rester là to let the matter rest
en venir à to (finally) be in a position to
en vouloir à qqun to be resentful, think badly of someone
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