En – preposition, pronoun, and more

It consists of just two letters, yet the French word en has three distinct areas of meaning/usage and four different pronunciations. Here’s everything you need to know abouten.


En fits into three different grammatical categories – click the links for detailed lessons.

1) Preposition

As a preposition, en has many meanings related to space, time and more.

Je suis en Europe. I’m in Europe.
Il fait les petits gâteaux en 20 minutes. He makes cupcakes in 20 minutes. (It takes him 20 minutes)

2) Gerund helper

I suppose en could be considered a preposition here as well, but it’s a pretty distinct usage: en + present participle = gerund.

Je suis tombé en grimpant l’arbre. I fell while climbing the tree.
Il les mange en marchant. He eats them while walking.

3) Adverbial pronoun

Perhaps the trickiest usage of en is as an adverbial pronoun, when it replaces a quantity, place, or object of the preposition de.

J’en suis revenu hier. I came back from there yesterday.
Il en fait une douzaine. He makes a dozen of them.