What is the correct answer for this question:

Combien y a-t-il d'arrondissements à Paris ?

1. Il y a 20 arrondissements.

2. Il y a 20 arrondissements à Paris.

And does "y" replace "à Paris" or is just used here as exist?

  • 1
    The "correct" answer is Vingt ! Everything else is more or less redundant.
    – jlliagre
    Sep 17 at 15:42

Both are correct, but the first is more likely to be used, and even more likely is this third form below.

  • Il y en a vingt.

"Y" is just part of the so called "présentatif" (il y a), which is a fixed expression; it is not considered in this expression as the usual pronoun for which has to be found a referent.

(TLFi) Présentatif, subst. masc.,ling. Mot ou locution servant à mettre en relief un groupe nominal ou pronominal
♦ On étudiera ici le fonctionnement de trois termes (c'est −il y a −voilà [voici]) qu'un critère syntaxique de base permet de rassembler: associé à n'importe quel groupe nominal déterminé subséquent, ils constituent une phrase: «C'est mon père. Il y a une poire. Voilà quelques débris.» Pour cette raison, il est commode de les dénommer «présentatifs» (J.-Cl. Chevalier ds Lang. fr., févr. 1969, no1, p.82).

Illustration prompted by the comments

                                           enter image description here

  • @MrcJ These divisions of the city correspond to particular neighborhoods, except that they are administrative divisions as the boroughs in London. As such they are surrounded by nothing else than other "arrondissements"; the river, however constitutes a part of the boundary of some of them but never surrounds any one of them. // So, the answers are not correct because of that, first. Then, if that was true, your formulation is almost correct only for the second case ( Ils sont entourés par la Seine.) // The first formulation is very faulty.
    – LPH
    Sep 17 at 13:27
  • @MrcJ This sounds like your asking us about your homework. Also, you mean: sont-ils and not son-ils. Paris' arrondissements are not surrounded by the Seine....
    – Lambie
    Sep 19 at 16:29
  • @Lambie even so, I don't see the pb in asking, this is the problem I had encountered when I had tried to answer a question and I needed some clarifications. Ty for your time to answer but I don't see any point in this kind of comments like "your asking for help"(which btw is the point of this platform in the first place), it's not like I said "here it is my question, answer it". I gave you my example and what I had tried and then I asked you(french speakers) for some clarifications.
    – MrcJ
    Sep 20 at 19:17
  • And yes, I meant "sont-ils" and as you cand see my answer was " Ils-sont..."
    – MrcJ
    Sep 20 at 19:18
  • @MrcJ Generally speaking, only one question at a time is asked. If you have a second one, you should pose it if you want to but not in a comment. These are not my rules. These are general SE practices. If you don't believe me, ask the moderators. Thank you.
    – Lambie
    Sep 21 at 15:45

There are or There is in French: Il y a. It is a set phrase in French and is invariable and cannot be broken down, as it were.

  • How many x are there in y: Combien y a-t-il de x à y.

There are 20 arrondissements in Paris.
Il y a 20 arrondissements à Paris.

There is/there are are dummy pronouns in English.

In French, "il y a" is a set phrase: une locution verbale impersonnelle.


**The answer to an y a-t-il x or est-ce qu'il y a x question is:
Il y a [number] [x].

  • 1
    your last part is not precise enough. If you ask : y a-t-il 20 départements à Paris?, the answer will be "Oui". You give the number if the question is"combien y a-t-il d'arrondissements à Paris? (Il y en a ) 20"
    – radouxju
    Sep 20 at 14:22
  • @radouxju You can answer any question with a full sentence. I did not give a number in my last part because I was illustrating: Y a-t-il des hommes politiques en France? Oui, il y a des hommes politiques en France. So, mine was very specific where x is hommes politiques. The x could be anything really. You're claiming one has to answer with just a yes or no. And finally. I had already illustrated the one with combien.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20 at 18:08
  • @Lambie User radouxju is right: answer to any "y a-t-il" question is a "yes-no" answer. The answerer can at times diverge from this yes-no pattern, ignore it (more or less relevantly), but that is not the norm, and what you assert is definitely the statement of a norm, the norm; that is not it. (ex.: — Y a-t-il le temps de faire ça ? — Le temps n'est pas un facteur, on ne'entre pas dans ces considérations.)
    – LPH
    Sep 20 at 19:31
  • @LPH It is really not accurate to say that the answer to any ""Is there/are there" question is yes and no. I am not "asserting any norm".
    – Lambie
    Sep 21 at 15:42
  • @Lambie It is true that "yes" and "no" are sometimes omitted and a corrective statement or an added specification is made but the answer is made on a yes-no basis. To "Are there twenty five letters in the French alphabet?" you answer naturally "(No,) there are twenty six.". To "Are there twenty six letters in the French alphabet?" you answer naturally "yes, (there are)."; here again you might omit "yes" and say simply "there are." and "yes" is understated, but you are not likely to say "there are twenty six lettetrs in the French alphabet.", except perhaps in humorous fashion.
    – LPH
    Sep 21 at 16:58

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