To a beginning learner like me, these two pronouns, en and y, are so quintessentially French that they seem to have been part of the language since its very inception, really.

However, I have no knowledge of the history of these typically French linguistic structures; nor do I know when they first entered the language.

So my question is: As Latin, the language from which French evolved, seems to have nothing similar to either en or y, what is then the linguistic source for these pronouns in French, and when were they first introduced into the language? (So a very concise introduction to the history of these words would be greatly appreciated).

  • "This question may already have an answer here: Quelle est la différence entre les pronoms « en » et « y » ? 5 answers" That question was about the grammatical functions of these two words, not their etymology and history. Downvoter, have you really not understood the fundamental difference between function and history? Or have you seen a single note on the etymology of these words in this question which you think may have anticipated mine?
    – indoxica
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


Grevisse, le bon Usage (qui a en tout douze pages sur en et y dans la 12ième édition)

En vient de l'adverbe latin inde « de là ». Pour y (ordinairement écrit i en ancien français), les étymologistes sont partagés : les uns proposent l'adverbe latin ibi « là » (certainement représenté par la forme iv des Serments de Strasbourg) ; d'autres l'adverbe latin hic « ici ».

As they come from adverbs, and behave both like adverbs and pronouns, they are sometimes called adverbes pronominaux or pronoms adverbiaux.


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