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Do these constructions have a standardized way of being translated into English, or can their translation vary based on context?

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I have noticed that these constructions are usually linked to the article partitif "du", answering the preceding question either in the positive (il y en a) or in the negative (il n'y en a pas).

But can they also be used in other contexts? For example, can they also be used purely idiomatically? If so, what would they mean if used only idiomatically?

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Right now, the simple answer is yes. Your question need more explanation. Do you have any example of why you are sruggling on this point? –  Impair Jul 12 '13 at 13:43

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Do these constructions have a standardized way of being translated into English, or can their translation vary based on context?

Depending on context, you may prefer to translate "there is (are some)/there isn't" with "il existe/il n’existe (aucun)", especialy in maths.

There are some idiomatic sentences using it that may more or less idiomatic, like "il n’y a qu’à voir" that you may prefer to translate "having a look at it say it all" or something like that.

Also, in a more familiar register, "(il) Y en a, je te jure…", may be translated "Some people make me feel so angry, I swear that would they be in front of me…".

But most of idiomatic sentences using this construction are idiomatic on an other part of the sentence, like "Il n’y a pas de quoi en faire un fromage !", that is "There's nothing to make a drama out of". Well you may just as well say "Il n’y a pas de quoi en faire un drame !", but you know that frenchs and cheese is an epic story. ;)

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We were taught that "il y a" means "there is" and "il y en a" means "there are". However, that was in the early eighties - and I did have an excellent French teacher, but maybe modern French is changing dramatically enough to drop subtle 'formalities'. Again, it may depend on the context in which it used. I hope this is of some help.

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“Il y a” has never been exclusively singular. This was already incorrect in the early 1980s, and in the early 1880s too. The word “en” doesn't change the number, it's a pronoun that stands for a set or a place. –  Gilles Mar 22 at 14:15

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