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If you were saying "I don't know if they have any of those," what is the difference between saying ...s'ils les ont and ...s'ils en ont ?

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The first thing that jumps to my mind is that s'ils les ont is definite, so you are talking about something that we know about, and you are saying if they have them. The second expression, s'ils en ont, is indefinite, so it would refer to something in bulk, maybe if they have some.

For example, we would say:

Je vais chercher ces deux livres à la bibliothèque, mais je ne sais pas s'ils les ont.

which is: I'm going to look for these two books in the library, but I don't know if they have them.

whereas:

Je vais chercher des carottes au marché, mais je ne sais pas s'ils en ont.

is: I'm going to buy carrots at the farmer's market, but I don't know if they have any.

It looks like a similar distinction can readily be made in English.

  • Agreed with the semantics here — though unlike in English, where "them" could be used for either case (it could replace "any" in the second example in informal speech), les couldn't appear in the second French example. Another way of stating the rule of thumb besides definiteness might be: if the object being replaced starts with de, use en. – Luke Sawczak Mar 24 '17 at 1:51
  • @LukeSawczak - good points! – Frank Mar 24 '17 at 2:17

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