CONNECTIONS - 'y' and 'en'
French has some unexpected ways of linking words together, as you'll have seen from 'the nine whiches' on the grammar index page, and also from VERBS 03, VERBS 04, VERBS 05 and VERBS 06, where you discovered more about the use of 'à' and 'de'.
Basically, 'à' means 'at', or 'to' - and 'de' means 'of' or 'from'. But there are two further 'little words' that are used a lot if you're saying 'at it', 'to it', or 'of it', 'from it'. These words are 'y' and 'en'.
The best guide for remembering which to use where, is that if French would use 'à' (plus 'it', or 'them'), then you probably need 'y' ... and if French would use 'de' (plus 'it', or 'them'), then you probably need 'en'.
'y' also means 'there' (in the sense of 'to there') and 'en' also means 'some' (in the sense of 'some of it', 'some of them'). Some examples may help show how these words are used - note the word order [and see also CONNECTIONS 02].
|I went there.
||J'y suis allé(e).|
|I have some. (of it) (of them)
|It is necessary to obey the law.
||Il faut obéir à la loi.|
|It is necessary to obey it.
||Il faut y obéir.|