FR: je l'habite / j'y habite

zapspan

Senior Member
English, USA (Southern California)
I know that when the complement of "habiter" starts with a preposition, the prepositional phrase can get replaced by "y" in the reply:
Est-ce que tu habites à New York? Oui, j'y habite.

But since "habiter" can also take a direct object, can one ever say "Oui, je l'habite." (for example, in response to a question like Est-ce que tu habites X?)

So, for example, when answering "Est-ce que tu habites New York?", could one answer "Oui, je l'habite." ?
Or would one have to answer "Oui, j'y habite." ?

Evidence that one must say "Oui, j'y habite" is found in post #33 of the thread located at FR: habiter (à/dans) Paris - préposition, by OLN, in which OLN says: "On [...] peut habiter Londres ou habiter à Castelmoron-d'Albret [...]. Dans les deux cas, on y habite." But I still wanted to ask about this to make sure.
 
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  • Michelvar

    Quasimodo
    French / France
    Hi,

    As "habiter" is both transitive and intransitive, you may say "j'habite à Paris" and "j'habite Paris".
    When you want to use a pronoun, "J'habite à Paris" gives "j'y habite", and "J'habite Paris" gives "je l'habite".

    So, in theory, saying "je l'habite" is not wrong. However, in French from my neighbourhood (and, as it seems, also from OLN's neighbourhood) we would seldom use "je l'habite" for a city, or it would be inside an elaborate sentence, with a hint of "taking possession of".
    It would sound less odd for a house for instance, "cette maison, je l'habite depuis 10 ans", but still far from being the most common expression in my opinion.

    It's far safer, especially for a non native, to always use "j'y habite" even to answer to a question like "Habites-tu New-York?".
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    It indeed sounds a bit odd to say je l'habite when referring to a town or city name (New-York, Paris…) or proper names in general, although a few examples can be found in the literature:

    J'étais à peine installé à Clichy, et déjà les plaintes de la population qui l'habite frappaient mes oreilles (Louis Reybaud, Jérôme Paturot à la recherche d'une position sociale).​

    It is a lot more natural when referring to a noun, whether it is a house, apartment, room or other type of accommodation. It also sounds fine for a town, city, area, region, country, or even a planet or the universe – as long as it is not a name.

    Ce n'est pas l'enceinte d'une ville ou d'un état qui donne ce privilège à celui qui l'habite (Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, Voyage du jeune Anarchasis en Grèce).​
    La cataracte s'étend sur un espace de six lieues. Nul peuple ne l'habite; il n'y a sur les bords ni village ni maisons ; elle est déserte et muette (Maxime Du Camp, Le Nil, Égypte et Nubie).​
    Les charmes du lieu [= cette vallée riante], le monde élégant qui l'habite pendant la belle saison (Victor de Jouy, L'Hermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin).​
    Je n'exclus rien ; mais je veux qu'on soit de la province, si on l'habite (Léon Gozlan, Le Notaire de Chantilly).​
    [Cette île] est toute sablonneuse, et ne produit que quelques pins ; mais elle est remarquable par l'excellence de son poisson et de ses huîtres. On l'habite peu, et l'on y voit quelques bestiaux qui n'ont pour nourriture que de l'herbe rare et courte. (Louis Baudry des Lozières, Voyage à la Louisiane.)​
    Nous employâmes le reste de la journée à visiter le pays et le peuple qui l'habite (Voyage de La Pérouse autour du monde).​
    L'univers et tout ce qui l'habite n'est plus rien pour moi (Mme Cottin, Claire d'Albe).​


    On a side note, the pronoun le is required when referring to a person, as in Le démon l'habite.
     

    Bezoard

    Senior Member
    French - France
    There is also an anecdotical reason to avoid "l'habite", it is the bad pun which can be made (one famous example is : "Satan l'habite").
     

    zapspan

    Senior Member
    English, USA (Southern California)
    The fact that some instances of "l'habite" are odd seems unexpected (other than perhaps due to the issue raised by Bezoard), given that the corresponding cases of "habite" plus a proper noun (such as the name of a city) are not odd. Any thoughts on what this difference is due to?
     
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