'y' and 'là'

Can someone clarify for me the difference between these two words? On memrise, they're both defined as 'there', but I believe they're both very different words. Am I right in thinking that 'là' is only used to refer to a physical location? What circumstances would you use 'y' in?

Posted by Rebecca. 3/15/12, last update 3/20/12 (2 years ago)
  • là- there as in "over there" y - used to replace the noun? when you j'y suis etc?

    this could be totally wrong but its just what came to me

    Posted by rva2paix 3/16/12 (2 years ago)
  • Allons-y is literally "let's go there" in English. I'd tend to translate it as "let's get going" or "let's go" or maybe "let's get to it". Most other instances I can think of where you'd use y in French are similarly idiomatic, and you wouldn't say the same thing in English.

    La is a lot more likely to be used for the sorts of "there" that an English speaker would care about.

    Y also tends to feel a bit more casual to me. I probably don't use it enough or in the right way, because I have a hard time hearing it in spoken/sung French. La is a lot easier to hear, and shows up in lots of French songs.

    Posted by torrilin 3/17/12 (2 years ago)
  • I was always told that la was pretty much only used when you could physically point to 'there'...? Don't know if that helps or not?!

    Posted by Cookewitch 3/18/12 (2 years ago)
  • You all are pretty much right. Those 2 words are used with some kinds of rules but sometimes those rules are broken and you just have to learn the expression as it is. Mostly though 'la' (with accent) refers to a place and 'y' refers to the idea of 'it'. Here are a few examples: - Ou sont mes clefs? Elles sont la! - Where are my keys? They are there! - Je suis alle le voir mais is n'etait pas la - I went to see him but he wasn't there (not home). - Je suis alle as sa maison mais il n'y etait pas - I went to his house but he was not at it - Je suis alle au rendez-vous mais il n'etait pas la. Je suis alle au rendez-vous mais il n'y etait pas. Here both are correct however there is a very fine difference. The 1st version: I went to the meeting point but he was not at that point. The 2nd version: I went to the meeting but he was not at it, meaning not at the meeting. Why? Because rendez-vous can mean meeting point but also the action of meeting and also having a date. - D'accord, on y va - Ok, let's go for it - Qui veut allez chez Marcel? Moi, j'y vais - Who wants to go to Marce's (house)? Me, I'll go. In this case, even though the location is precise, we use 'y'.

    It seems the rule would be that the word 'la' is used to refer to a place. 'La' replaces the meeting place, the table, the house, etc. On the contrary 'y' is associated to an action/verb. 'La' can be replaced by a noun and 'y' cannot. I.e. our previous examples: - Je suis alle au rendez-vous mais il n'etait pas au rendez-vous/la. Makes sense. - Je suis alle au rendez-vous mais il n'au rendez-vous/y etait pas. Doesn't make sense.

    Posted by sfrenchie 3/20/12 (2 years ago)

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