I've always been taught it's « arriver à quelque chose » so I'm a little confused why in this video at 23 seconds the presenter says the line « comment en sommes-nous arrivés là » not « comment y sommes-nous arrivés là » or just simply « comment sommes-nous arrivés là » without en or y because I would've thought the là was enough to indicate some sort of position. Could someone explain why it's « en » and what the difference between the three options are (or if my suggested ones are just invalid)?

2 Answers 2


"En" wears many hats but here it seems to be an adverbial pronoun that denotes initial situation or place:

Comment en (= from where we were) sommes-nous arrivés là (= to this current state)?

The sentence: « Comment y sommes-nous arrivés là ? » is incorrect because “y” and “là” are redundant.

« Comment sommes-nous arrivés là ? » is correct but you lose the expression of contrast of the first sentence.

  • For the sake of it, would it be correct to say « comment en y sommes-nous arrivés »? Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 9:31
  • @Quippy It would rather be Comment y en sommes nous arrivés but the phrase would be very uncommon, to say the least.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 12:57

There is a noticeable difference between

Comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ?


Comment sommes-nous arrivés là ?

In the former sentence, refers to a situation that affect us (a state of affairs, a condition) while in the latter, might just mean a physical location.

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