French Grammar: The Expression “IL Y A” – Basics

French Grammar: The Expression "IL Y A" - Basics

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French Grammar: The Expression “IL Y A” – Basics
la grammaire française: l’expression “IL Y A” – une introduction

  • The expression IL Y A is comprised of the words IL (“it”) + Y (“there”) + A (“has” – from AVOIR).
  • IL Y A has many functions. Most commonly, it identifies the existence of people, places, and things.

Study:

IL Y A is most commonly used to mean “there is” or “there are”, and often talks about people or things. IL Y A is most often used in the following constructions:

 IL Y A + indefinite article + noun:

Il y a un livre sur la table.
There is a book on the table.

Il y a des pupitres dans la salle de classe.
There are desks in the classroom.

IL Y A + number + noun:

Il y a trois stylos sur la chaise.
There are three pens on the chair.

IL Y A + indefinite adjective OR indefinite pronoun:

Il y a certaines règles à suivre.
There are certain rules to follow.

Il y a quelqu’un dans la salle de classe.
There is someone in the classroom.

The most common (and easiest!) way to ask a question with IL Y A is to precede it with the expression Est-ce qu’:

Est-ce qu’il y a une gomme dans le sac à dos?
Is there an eraser in the backpack?

Est-ce qu’il a y a des affiches dans la salle de classe?
Are there any posters in the classroom?

In a negative construction, IL Y A becomes IL N’Y A PAS, meaning “there isn’t” or “there aren’t”.  With IL N’Y A PAS, we use DE (or D’ before a noun that starts with a vowel or silent letter ‘h’) in place of the indefinite article (UN, UNE, or DES).

Il n’y a pas de stade sur le campus.

There isn’t any stadium on the campus.
(Also: There is no stadium on the campus.)

Il n’y a pas de table dans la salle de classe.

There isn’t any table in the classroom.
(Also: There is no table in the classroom.)

Il n’y a pas d’étudiants canadiens dans la classe.

There aren’t any Canadian students in the class.
(Also:  There are no Canadian students in the class.)

Adapt:

Il y a un livre de français ici?
Is there a French book here?

Oui, il y a un livre de français ici sur une chaise.

Yes, there is a French book here on a chair.

Il y a une horloge sur le mur?

Is there a clock on the wall?

Non, il n’y a pas d’horloge sur le mur.
No, there is no clock on the wall.

Il y a des crayons dans la salle de classe?

Are there some (any) pencils in the classroom?

Non, il n’y a pas de crayons dans la salle de classe.

No, there aren’t any pencils in the classroom.
(Also:  No, there are no pencils in the classroom.)

Il y a des dictionnaires de français sur la table?

Are there some (any) French dictionaries on the table?

Oui, il y a quatre dictionnaires de français sur la table.
Yes, there are four French dictionaries on the table!

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