I just said the following as a little pep talk:

Pourquoi t'es si pressée ? Pourquoi tous ces soupirs ? Moi qui croyais que tu étais le porte-parole d'« être toujours optimiste » ? Ta vie professionelle semble n’en être qu’à ses débuts.

I wonder in hindsight if I should have left the pronoun « en » out, given the presence of « ses »:

Ta vie professionelle semble n’être qu’à ses débuts.

Using « en » instinctively came to mind, but I cannot shake off the feeling that both « en » and « ses » are overlapping things.

  • Wouldn't it have been much easier to understand if you'd written: Ta vie professionelle semble être (seulement) à ses débuts? May 5, 2017 at 11:23
  • Unfortunately, saying "Ta vie professionelle semble être à ses débuts" without "ne ... que" takes the edge off the emphasis, while using "seulement" instead of "ne ... que" sounds strange to my ears – as if being at the beginning (at what stage) of your career were the only important aspect of it, not taking into account other aspects such as "how well you are doing" etc. May 5, 2017 at 11:50
  • Either way, I don't think en is necessary. Emphasis or no emphasis. May 5, 2017 at 11:53
  • 1
    The en is required here and ses has nothing to do with it. It's what's described there. There's indeed a change when you go from nothing/nowhere to a "beginning". ;-)
    – None
    May 5, 2017 at 12:09
  • 1
    @Alone-zee I get what you're trying to say and i think it's the right way to see "en". With, your sentence feels complete, over. Without, it almost seems like you're about to add something. But i think that the one with "en" fits more in the whole text.
    – romain
    May 5, 2017 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


« en » and « ses » do not overlap, here.

« en être » is (among other uses) commonly used to imply progression. For example, « T’es où ? » means “Where are you?” (physical location), whereas « T’en es où ? » roughly means “How much did you progress?” (on a task implied by the context).

Here, you’re referring to the progression of your interlocutor’s professional life, not to its location, so « en » seems adequate.


Je crois que la formulation "originale" de l'expression (qui est aujourd'hui figée) est quelque chose comme "ce n'est que le début de X", qui inclut bel et bien un complément en de qui devient le pronom en dès lors que l'on réorganise la phrase pour faire de X le sujet.

Je ne peux pas vraiment élaborer plus car mon ouvrage de référence habituel (Grevisse, Bon Usage, 14e éd.) ne parle pas de cette construction. Si ça vous intéresse, les usages de en pronom sont couvert sous la section §676.

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