Posted on by Peter Rettig

Quick French: ”On y va!”, “Allons-y!”

On y va t-shirts The use of the single letter "y" and its combination with forms of the verb "aller" "rester" etc. is confusing to many French beginners. However, it's really not that difficult.

(The picture on the left shows the cover of “On y va!”, a French lesson book used by Swiss high school students in the 80s and 90s.)

Recently, we listed a number of phrases with “y” in a Facebook post.
"y" = here, there; about it, on it (referring to something that was mentioned). Some of these come up as part of our French 1 travel-story course.

Adverb "y" - here, there

• "J'y suis, j'y reste." - Here I am (and) here I'm staying.
• "Marseille? Oui, je vais y aller." - Marseille? Yes, I'm going there.
• "Le pont d'Avignon ? On ne peut plus y danser." - Avignon Bridge? You can't dance on it/there any more.
• "La Tour Eiffel ? Est-ce que tu y es déjà monté ?" - The Eiffel Tower? Did you already go up on it/there?
• "Allez-y !" - Go!; Go on!; Go ahead! (Lit: Go there!)
• "On y va." - Let's go (Lit: We are going there.)

Pronoun "y" - about it /that, on it /that

• "Trois jours à Paris! Penses-y !" - Three days in Paris! Think about it!
• "Il faut y penser. - We have to think about that.
• "J'y compte." - I'm counting on it.
• "Je n'y crois pas." - I don't believe it.
• "Je m'y attendais." - I was expecting that.
• "J'y tiens." - It matters to me. (Lit: I'm holding to it.)

The Expression "il y a" - there is, are; it's

"Il y a du monde.- There are a lot of people. /It's busy.
"Il y avait du monde. - There were a lot of people. /It was busy.

"Il y a du soleil." - It's sunny.
"Il y avait du soleil." - It was sunny.

"Il y a erreur." - There's a mistake.
"Il y avait erreur." - There was a mistake.

The Expression "il y a" - ago

"Il y a plus de deux ans." - More than two years ago.
"Il y a mille cinq cents ans." - Fifteen hundred years ago.
"Il y a quelques années." - A few years ago.
"Il y a longtemps." - Long ago. / Ages ago.
"Il y a quelque temps." - A while ago.
"Il y a peu." - Not long ago.

Moreover, you can combine various forms of the verb “aller” (to go) and “y” (there) to create commands that are commonly used in daily life.

An excellent explanation of the French adverbial pronoun "y" and its uses can be found on Lawless French and on Speak French Fluently – How to use Vas-y, Allez-y And Allons-y by Stanley Aléong

Let us know any comments or questions you have and - keep on learning as playfully as you can. Language learning should be first and foremost enjoyable, a quest of discovery, not a chore.

Do you want to know what "On ne peut plus y danser, mais on peut encore l’admirer." mean in French? Just click HERE.