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I’d like to understand the meaning of “en” in the title phrase. I know the phrase means “I’m not there yet,” so my theory is, since “there” isn’t referring to a specific place, and is more idiomatic, “en” stands in to mean whatever you’re talking about.

Par exemple :

— Tu as encore lu le dernier chapitre du livre ?
— Ben non, je n’en suis pas là.

It seems to me that “en” takes the place of “the last chapter.”

Am I on the right track?

  • Why did someone delete the introductory sentence to my question? I didn’t see anything wrong with saying hello, and then thank you at the end. But I got a notification that those lines have been deleted. – tssmith2425 May 16 at 20:31
  • I didn’t realize. Thanks! – tssmith2425 May 17 at 1:52
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You are absolutely on the right track.

En refers to something already known which is reachable: a step, a level, a skill, etc.

Note that the question uses the wrong adverb. That should be:

Tu as déjà lu le dernier chapitre du livre ?

Encore would mean "did you read again the last chapter".

  • Thanks so much! And thank you for correcting the adverb. I realize now that “encore” would make sense in a negative construction, rather than positive. – tssmith2425 May 16 at 7:25
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You are on the right track. In the sentence

-Tu as encore lu le dernier chapitre du livre ?

-Ben non, je n'en suis pas là.

The word en is used to avoid repeating the words le dernier chapitre because we can also say:

-Ben non, je n'ai pas lu le dernier chapitre.

In addition, we would add the word encore because it helps to mention that we are not there yet

-Ben non, je n'en suis pas encore là.

  • Great, thank you! I’ve struggled off and on to understand that “en” can replace more than just “de,” so I’m finally getting it. – tssmith2425 May 16 at 7:26
  • So en means something like "in that place" or "at that place". If we assume that it is a pronoun (as is sometimes stated in French grammars) then it stands for a noun phrase (here le dernier chapitre) in the locative case, which is represented in French (and English) by a preposition + noun phrase. That then gives me two questions. Why do we need the en and the ? And where does it come from - is it related to the preposition en? – David Robinson May 16 at 16:28
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The first sentence is not correct; what is meant instead, taking the second sentence as correct and therefore determining the context, is expressed as follows;

  • Tu n'as pas encore lu le dernier chapitre du livre ? or
  • Tu n'as toujours pas lu le dernier chapitre du livre ?

No, I believe you are mistaken. "Là" does mean "the last chapter". "Là" is an all-purpose pronoun of the French language; "en" also is a difficult pronoun. Here "en" means the understated occupation of reading or reading that particular book the two persons are conscious of ; what "en" stands for is only globally defined, it can be more or less specific but no one insists on too much detail : it is sufficient that it should be pertinent to the situation at hand ; what is being replaced is defined through sheer common sense; this is a matter of common sense, of course, only after you have acquired a feel for the use of "en" (I do not imply that understanding the process of replacement should be a matter of plain common sense, it is difficult for everyone and no less for the French). So, this global characterisation that "en" will stand for could be "la lecture" or "ma lecture" or "la lecture de …" or if this is a re-reading, "ma relecture …" etc. A key word is "lecture", what common sense shows to be the occupation under consideration. In a developped fashion what is being said is this;

  • Ben, dans la progression de ma lecture (du livre, de "Alice au pays des merveilles", etc;)(en) je ne suis pas au (point du) dernier chapitre (or au point de la lecture du dernier chapitre) ().
  • Thank you for this very thorough explanation. It’s sligjtly confusing, but the example you gave at the end drives it home for me. :) – tssmith2425 May 16 at 20:35
  • I’ve just thought of another question after rereading your answer. If “en” truly is flexible and universal as you said, then does that mean that I can essentially use it wherever, or are there rules and restrictions? I have a feeling if I tried to use it like this, I’d be incorrect or I wouldn’t be understood, or both. – tssmith2425 May 17 at 7:37
  • @tssmith2425 That's not what I meant to say; you can use it as refering to an activity that is not named specifically but clearly understated. «— Connais-tu la quadratique ? — Je n'en suis pas là ! (en mathématiques or dans mon étude des mathématiques je ne suis pas encore arrivé là !) » (nobody mentionned it's mathematics, but we deduce that. Another example: — Tu peux faire un plongeon arrière ? — Je n'en suis pas là ! (dans mon apprentissage pour devenir un plongeur je n'ai pas encore appris ça, (same thing) je ne suis pas encore à ce niveau, j'ai encore beaucoup à apprendre). (field 1) – LPH May 17 at 7:57
  • @tssmith2425 The two persons speaking might have met again after some time and not have spoken about diving for a long time(let's say two weeks) but the one asking knows his/her friend is a learner in the activity of diving and so there is no need to mention that. However, such a context is necessary. There must be clearly a clearly understood activity of which a progression from one point to another is an important feature. You can however refer to it in different ways sometimes, although there is not a great choice. (field 2) – LPH May 17 at 8:10
  • @tssmith2425 For diving "en" could be "the art of diving", or "my learning how to dive" or "my practice at making complicated dives"; the point is that it must refer to the activity as it applies to you in the context of the question, whichever the end by which you take this activity. (end) – LPH May 17 at 8:15

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