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Need of "en" when what is given is not specified.

CarolC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Need of "en" when what is given is not specified.

Elle m'en donne quatre toutes les semaines.  Is said to be the correct translation of She gives me four every week.  Why is it that the "of them" is understood in English but not in French?  Maybe I'm being difficult, but it would seem that the "of them" should be clear either from the preceding information or just clear to whoever is hearing the phrase.  Please clarify -- is this another French idiosyncrasy??? 

Asked 11 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Carol, 

With quantities, you have to have the pronoun 'en' when you want to replace the item/s you are talking about by a pronoun. The problem is that in English sometimes 'of them' is omitted.

Without the full context, you cannot know what the 'en' replaces and should be used only when you know what it is.

This is the case even in the negative -

Vous avez des enfants ----> non, je n'en ai pas = je n'ai pas d'enfants

Take a look at the following Kwiziq lesson -

En with quantities = Of them (adverbial pronoun)

 

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I suppose the answer is yes (although which language is idiosyncratic is open to debate, I guess)

It will sound strange to the French if you don't specify the 'of what'. « en » confirms it is something 'known' from the context.

English leaves slight ambiguity - "I will give her 4" - are you still thinking of 'them' or has your mind jumped to something else ?

Ultimately, being language, the answer is that is just the way it is/has developed, and it doesn't need an obvious reason at all!

CarolC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you both!  And you're right, Maarten -- it is open to question if the idiosyncrasy is French or English (or, even better) BOTH!

Need of "en" when what is given is not specified.

Elle m'en donne quatre toutes les semaines.  Is said to be the correct translation of She gives me four every week.  Why is it that the "of them" is understood in English but not in French?  Maybe I'm being difficult, but it would seem that the "of them" should be clear either from the preceding information or just clear to whoever is hearing the phrase.  Please clarify -- is this another French idiosyncrasy??? 

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