2

« On n'y connaissait pas grand-chose à l'époque. »

vs « On ne connaissait pas grand-chose à l'époque. »

I wonder what purpose it serves to inlude the word "y" in this sentence. Is it for emphasis on negation?

3

y, which is a pronoun, will there refer to a specific topic, while the second sentence is more vague.

On parle beaucoup de technologies. On n'y connaissait pas grand chose à l'époque.

In this sentence, you're saying that, back in the time, you didn't know much about technology, because y refers to technologies. You could replace y by ne ... à celà.

On parle beaucoup de technologies. On ne connaissait pas grand chose à cela à l'époque.

For the second sentence :

On ne connaissait pas grand chose à l'époque.

There, if there is no more context, you're simply saying :

We didn't know much about stuff in general at that time.

  • Thanks. Actually, I understand that the pronoun "y" replaces a previous "à ..." phrase. I was stumped because I thought that the verb "connaître" is a transitive verb and, as such, cannot take the form of "connaître à quelque chose". I didn't know that "à cela" can be used here. – pourrait Peut-être Feb 24 '16 at 21:53
  • As it was the answer you were looking for, do not forget to accept the answer ! :) – Isuka Mar 15 '16 at 20:34

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