In English, we may begin a sentence with the multi-functional word "there" as part of a longer paragraph:

The village is quiet, with only a single public house hidden behind a quiet alley.

There, the locals enjoy an occasional beverage.

Is this correct grammar in French? I've been unable to find an example online, but then, it's a difficult (read: common) word to search for.

  • 1
    I'd say yes but it will usually be context dependent, so for a detailed answer it would be better if you added a little more to your question.
    – None
    Sep 15 '14 at 7:32
  • 1
    Although can be valid at the beginning of a sentence, that doesn't mean it's the best way to write THIS sentence (which might very well require ici in context because French and English don't separate these two words in quite the same way), which is impossible to tell without a little more context.
    – Circeus
    Sep 15 '14 at 15:21
  • @Circeus I replaced the ellipsis with an actual sentence for some context.
    – OJFord
    Sep 15 '14 at 17:29

Depending on context, it is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with "là", or with another adverb.

Let's take an example. This a paragraph from a recent news article:

En Europe des traitements sont développés pour des maladies rares, comme par exemple les maladies génétiques, même si cela touche peu de monde, puisque les patients ou la sécurité sociale peuvent payer. Mais , les gens n’ont pas d’argent, donc il n’y a pas de stimulation.

"Là" is not strictly at the beginning of the sentence but the sentence could be rewritten without "mais", so we can take it as:

, les gens n’ont pas d’argent, donc il n’y a pas de stimulation.

"Là" is used as opposed to Europe from where the reporter is writing.

From a Québec blog:

Là, les gens du coin redécouvrent la région et tout ce qu'elle a à offrir,

There's no real opposition to "ici" in this context.

An another example from a local newspaper:

Là, les gens ont bien du retourner travailler et trouver un mode de garde pour leurs enfants.

In this case is not used to express location but to express time (full phrase would be "À ce moment-là"), and there is no opposition to "ici".

Let's imagine the following context: I'm writing an article about a local café in a village. After having described the actual layout of the place, the following sentence could very well be:

Là, les gens du coin se retrouvent de temps à autre autour d'un verre.

  • In any case it would be a mistake to think that there may arbitrarily translated as . expresses a voluntary emphasis or contrast whereas there is a normal descriptive. Downvoting because even though nothing in here is actually wrong, I think the way this answer is phrased will lead people to misconceptions. Sep 17 '14 at 10:08

I'm afraid I can't really explain the specifics (I suspect it just feels overly stiff/literary to me.), but I don't think the added context makes alone works. I'd either extend it with c'est là or use the "locative" (actually prepositional) pronoun y:

C'est là que les gens du coin se retrouvent de temps à autre autour d'un verre.

Les gens du coin s'y retrouvent de temps à autre autour d'un verre.

  • I think is OK but +1 for suggesting y as an alternative.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 16 '14 at 14:21
  • @ChrisW Là is definitely not ok for me in the given context. Usually it's used to form a tonic contrast. Sep 17 '14 at 9:58
  • @StéphaneGimenez There isn't much context given in the OP. It's similar to sentences in Laure's answer, which use "Là" in a way I found OK. I get what you mean though: it doesn't just mean "there", it means "there as opposed to here". But I also don't mind her example of "Là" from the Quebec blog.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 17 '14 at 10:13
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Sep 17 '14 at 11:08

I think the exact french translation, in this particular sentence, would not be 'Là' but 'Là-bas'. (but 'là' is still correct) I can't really explain why, but in France we would prefer 'Là-bas' to start the sentence.

  • « ŀà » est tout à fait correct.
    – Toto
    Sep 17 '14 at 7:17
  • Personne n'avait mentionné "là-bas" comme traduction de "there". Et pourtant, son usage me semble plus usuel. Cela reste simplement mon ressenti. Merci de me confirmer que "là" est tout à fait correct.
    – Antoine
    Sep 17 '14 at 10:59

In this sentences, you would use 'ici', 'là' is almost never used in the beginning of a sentence.

Ici, les gens apprécient une boisson occasionelle.

for the word 'là':

Il y a deux pubs (...). Ici les gens viennent souvent, là plus rarement.

In the above sentences, 'ci' refer the first named pub, 'là' the second one.

  • 1
    But 'ici' is 'here' in English, non? There is a distinction between "Here, ..." and "There, ..." (in English).
    – OJFord
    Sep 15 '14 at 7:07
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    @OllieFord We also make the difference between "ici" and "là" in French, but if only one is used we tend to use "là" where in English we'd use "here". e.g. "Je serai là demain" would usually be "I'll be here tomorrow" in English.
    – None
    Sep 15 '14 at 7:41

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