I just said in conversation:

Je sais ce qu’il en coûte de recourir à cette méthode. Si vraiment on doit en passer par là, on pourrait peut-être au moins faire ...

For the 1st "en" in "en coûter", I assume it is an integral part of the phrase; it denotes "some sacrifices" or something similar, and it is not meant as the replacement for "de recourir ...".

For the 2nd "en" in "en passer par là", I assume it is necessary as well, since what I mean by "là" is a stage (in the figurative sense) that we go through, as opposed to some actual place that we pass. In the same vein as "Sans votre soutien, je ne serais pas arrivé où j'en suis aujourd'hui."

The use of "en" comes naturally to me on both counts, but having received conflicting opinions, I want to make sure if I'm on the right track.

2 Answers 2


There are two set expressions

  • en passer par (là)
  • en arriver (là)

where the en can be removed in informal speech:

  • passer par (là)

  • arriver (là)

These set expressions (with or without en) are typically (possibly always) introduced by falloir, devoir or aller. They both figuratively refer to an uneasy deviation from the path (passer) or the destination (arriver).

On the other hand, there are these regular expressions

  • passer par (là)

  • arriver (là) = (y) arriver

that have no implicit connotation.


  • Comment a-t-il fait pour arriver là ? : How did he manage to reach that place ?


  • Comment a-t-il fait pour en arriver là ? : How did he manage to get into such a situation ?


  • Pour aller à Bora-Bora, il faut faire escale à Papeete. S'il faut passer par là, je m’arrêterai dire bonjour à un ami.


  • Pour ne pas être condamné lourdement, il faut dénoncer tes complices. S'il faut en passer par là, je préfère me taire

You are on the right track; do not worry. Both your sentences are perfectly correct and very idiomatic. The third sentence is less obvious. It sounds right at first but I don't think such a sentence would come naturally to a French person. It looks like a portemanteau sentence (if there is such a thing), a mix of: -je ne serais pas arrivé , si tu etc... et -je ne sais plus où j'en suis. you would be understood because "en" is a discreet word but it does sound unusual for some reason.

  • I agree except about the "very colloquial" part. They do not sound colloquial to me, slightly the opposite. Maybe did you want to write "very idiomatic"?
    – jlliagre
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:33
  • Exactly! I always get those two mixed up in English. Thanks.
    – user45784
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:48
  • "Sans votre soutien, je ne serais pas arrivé (là) où j'en suis aujourd'hui." Would you include "là" in this sentence? I have heard both versions from native speakers. Also to @jlliagre Nov 29, 2017 at 23:03
  • Yes, is better.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 29, 2017 at 23:08
  • I wouldn't. It sounds a bit too much for me but French people could say that, yes. We are in a grey zone here. Sorry I can't help you more.
    – user45784
    Nov 29, 2017 at 23:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.