If I wanted to say the sentence "I’m tearing some fabric off the jacket." then that would be « J’arrache du tissu à la veste ». Therefore, the sentence “I’m tearing some fabric off from it.”, would be « J’y arrache du tissu. », right ?

I’m asking for confirmation because somebody told me « J’y arrache du tissu. » is incorrect and it should be « J’en arrache du tissu. ». If this is true, then could someone please provide me with the rule which instructs us to use « en » instead of « y ». 😬🤞🏽

I learnt that « ... à + inanimate noun » (i.e. à la veste) will be replaced by « y » and not « en » therefore I don’t really understand why we would use en.

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^Image (1)

The following image is the definition of « arracher » that I’m using.

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^Image (2)


“I’m tearing some fabric off from it.” = “I’m tearing some fabric off of it.” = “I’m tearing some fabric off it.”

Please also note that my french level is beginner therefore please can you keep all explanations as simple as possible. Thank you! 😊

  • Tear some fabric off of it. Not: off from it.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 16:22

2 Answers 2


J'en arrache du tissu is better because that means you tear off fabric from the jacket, i.e. fabric that is part of it.

You can also say: je lui arrache du tissu with the same meaning but j'y arrache du tissu means, assuming this is formal French, that there is a place where you tear off some fabric without implying anything about the jacket.

In relaxed colloquial French, y can be used the way you did.

Ce livre, j'en arrache une page. more formal

Ce livre, je lui arrache une page. common

Ce livre, j'y arrache une page. colloquial, spoken French only

  • Thank you so much for your help @jlliagre !!! 😊 But my question still stands: What rule is instructing us to use en instead of y in this scenario? This is really bothering me lol because I learnt that « ... à + inanimate noun » (Image 1) will be replaced by y and not en.
    – Noybwbh
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 12:34
  • That's an interesting point. I would say that's because this à is somewhat equivalent to a de, i.e. J'arrache une partie de la veste.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 14:38
  • @Noybwbh y arracher goes to the PLACE where the material was torn OFF. Just en goes only to the material itself.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 16:45

Let's have some fun with this. Imagine a stage setting in a theater. Let's imagine that the fabric is sewn together in little squares and stapled to the frame of a slat.

    • J'ai arraché le tissu à un des coins du cadre.
  • I tore the fabric off one of the frame's corners.
    • J'y ai arraché le tissu. [ y goes to corner where I tore it off due to the à.]
  • I tore it off there. [at/from the corner]
    • J'en ai arraché à cause des taches.
  • I tore some of it [some of the fabric] off because of the stains. [en=some of it]
    • J'y en ai arraché pour le remplacer. [notice:both y and en]
  • I tore some of it off there to replace it [so it could be replaced].

So, going back over this: the "y" means "there" [at that spot] and the "en" means some of it, not all of it.

Compare: 5) - J'aurais pu tout arracher mais cela aurait donné plus de travail. [tout versus en]

  • I could have torn it all off but that would have meant more work.
  • J'y en ai arraché isn't technically wrong but not very idiomatic. Outside in il y en + avoir and the colloquial y for lui, there are not that much cases of such sequences in French.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 16:31
  • Je suis allée me promener au parc. Il y avait des oiseaux partout. Et j'y en ai vu que je ne connaissais par auparavant. //On entend et on voit souvent des tournures du genres: J'y en ai vu, J'y en ai [verbe]. Trouvé sur le web: J'écume toutes les plages de bretagne depuis 30 ans, j'y en ai vu des choses incroyables! Ne serait-il pas mieux de parler en français dans ces cas-ci?
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 17:03
  • @jlliagre this is so so so helpful! Thank so very much for this insight! I guess I feel weird because the construction « J’arrache qch de qch d’autre » doesn’t appear in any of the definitions given in Larousse: larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/arracher/… - The second definition listed is of the form « J’arrache qch de qn. »
    – Noybwbh
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 17:50
  • Oui, comme je l'ai écrit, il existe quelques cas, mais ils sont très rares. Cette combinaison a déjà été évoquée ici : french.stackexchange.com/questions/1735/the-pronouns-en-and-y
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 18:03
  • 1
    @lambie on utilisera sans doute plutôt "J'en ai vu que je ne connaissais pas", le lieu étant implicite. Ou "j'y ai vu des choses incroyables" pour le second exemple, la durée étant elle aussi implicite.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 11:49

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