French The Expression "there is" "there are"
The French expression il y a, which can mean "there is" or "there are", is one of the most important expressions in the French language. It is most commonly followed by an indefinite article + noun, a number + noun, or an indefinite pronoun. To ask a question with il y a, you can either use est-ce que or inversion. To use il y a in a negative construction, place n' (why not ne?) in front of y and pas after a. Remember that the indefinite article must change to de due to the negative construction.
The French expression Il y a means “There is” or “There are.” It can also express [a certain amount of time] “ago.”
In separate parts, the expression il y a does not add up to the meaning that it has all together.
Il – subject pronoun for “it”
y – adverbial pronoun for “there”
a – third person singular conjugation of avoir meaning “has”
Using Il y a in statements
Il y aune faute avec votre billet. Il y a+ indefinite article + noun
There is a mistake with your ticket.
Il y a quinze joueurs dans l’équipe. Il y a + number + noun
There are 15 players on the team.
Il y a beaucoup de vols ce soir. Il y a + indefinite adjective/pronoun
There are a lot of flights tonight.
Il n’y a pas de…. There isn’t any/There aren’t any…
- The letter a, or the third person singular version of avoir, acts as the “verb” of the expression. The “ne” and the “pas” in the negation version of the expression sandwich the a in addition to the adverbial pronoun, y.
- To express this phrase in a different tense (i.e. There were… or There will be…), you must conjugate the third component, avoir (or a) to fit the desired verb tense. We will learn these conjugations of avoir in a later module.
- Remember when you negate a sentence, the indefinite article will always change to de. See A1.1 Module 7 to review indefinite articles.
Using Il y a in questions
Est-ce qu’il y a…Is it that there is/are…
Y a-t-il…Are/Is there…
Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? What’s wrong?
The French equivalent of expressing “ago,” is when the phrase Il y a is followed by a period of time.
|La famille a voyagé en Espagne il y a neuf mois.
|The family traveled to Spain nine months ago.
|Il y a 7 ans, j’ai reçu mon diplôme.
|Seven years ago, I received my diploma..
|Les professeurs se sont rencontrés il y a deux semestres.
|The professors met each other two semesters ago.
Useful vocabulary to remember:
an – year
mois – month
semaine – week
jour – day
heures – hours
minutes – seconds
Meet one or more times weekly with a dedicated French instructor online at a pace and schedule that custom fits your busy life.
Do you like to study on your own when it’s convenient for you? Buy helpful charts, vocabulary lists, and courses.
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.