FR: il y avait / il y a eu

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by sofiastone, May 11, 2007.

  1. sofiastone Senior Member

    Qu est-ce que c'est la difference entre....

    il y avait
    il y a eu

    en Anglais s'il vous plait?

  2. victoria1 Senior Member

    Mauritius - English & French
    There was: il y avait
    There has been; il y a eu
  3. A day in Eireann Senior Member

    France - French
    The difference is similar to the following option in English.

    For the general idea it's clearer with a different verb, so first let's say you are asking about "lire" ( to read)

    Je lisais un livre quand il surgit de nulle part

    I was reading a book when he came out of nowhere.

    J'ai lu un livre sur l'histoire d'un fou la semaine dernière.

    Last week, I read a book about a lunatic.

    The form " avait (imparfait) is used to emphasize the fact that an action lasted a while, or simply to point out which of two actions lasted longer.

    The "a eu" ( passé composé) pin points an action to a specific date or emphasize the fact that the action was sudden and short-lived.

    The imparfait in English is usually best translated by the past tense plus your verb ending in "ing" ( seeing grammar wordings change the world over, I let you decide on how to call that form: progressive, gerondif, etc)
    E.G: I have been walking for ages
    or I was walking for ages

    The passé composé is the same tense but without the progressive form, so it becomes:
    I have walked
    or I walked
  4. Bachatamor Senior Member

    Et dans la phrase "hier il y avait / il y a eu beaucoup d'embouteillages"?
  5. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    Both are possible, but il y avait and il y a eu mean two different things.

    Il y avait → background/context information. You expect it to be followed by something else: Il y avait beaucoup d'embouteillages, donc je suis allé travailler en vélo.
    Il y a eu
    → foreground/important action. That means the traffic is the actual theme of your sentence (it's no longer about you taking your bike to go to work).


    She had a car → Elle avait une voiture [BACKGROUND INFORMATION]
    She got a car → Elle a eu une voiture [MAJOR EVENT]

    She was 18 → Elle avait 18 ans [BACKGROUND INFORMATION]
    She turned 18 → Elle a eu 18 ans [MAJOR EVENT].
  6. Bachatamor Senior Member


    Donc, dans les actualités on entendra plutôt "Hier il y a eu beaucoup d'embouteillages sur les routes..." (comme c'est une information importante)
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 17, 2013
  7. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

  8. silverwhitemoon Member

    Jacksonville, FL
    USA, English
    So would I say:

    On ne pouvait pas traverser la rue parce qu'il y a avait beaucoup de voitures.


    On ne pouvait pas traverser la rue parce qu'il y a eu beaucoup de votures.
  9. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Since the dependent clause provides background information for the main clause, you should use the imparfait in the dependent clause:

    On ne pouvait pas / On n'a pas pu [depending on context] traverser la rue parce qu'il y avait beaucoup de voitures.
  10. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    In this type of sentence, il y a eu can be used if the impediment occurred suddenly or in the meantime while you were about to do the main action.

    J'ai pas pu aller à son anniversaire parce qu'il y a eu des soucis au boulot. = an issue happened which prevented me from going.

    J'ai pas aller à son anniversaire parce qu'il y avait des soucis au boulot. = issues were ongoing at work (probably hours before having to go).

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