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Could anyone tell me, please what is the meaning of     't'  in these sentences?


Qu' y a-t-il sur la table?(What there has it .......)

Y a-t-il un cahier sur la table?(There  has it....)

Y a--t-il des cahiers sur la table?(there has it...)

Combien de couteaux y a-t-il sur la table? (there has it)

Are the word-by-word translations correct? 



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I don't think it has a meaning as such.It is more a use.I think it allows you to  use "a" before "il"  more easily.

The word-by-word translations are correct but I assume you know that is not what  the phrase actually means.

George is right, the euphonic "t" is used just because it sounds better. Here's another forum's thread on the subject: 

As he said, word-by-word is correct, but the meanings are, respectively, "What is (there) [on the table]?" and "Is there [...]?"

Thank you both for your replies. They are very helpful.    But  the 't' is not optional, is  it?


You're welcome :-)

No, it's not optional. Just know that this is more a written form, and not usually used when you speak. Orally, you'd probably hear: "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a sur la table?" and "Est-ce qu'il y a un cahier sur la table?", which mean exactly the same as "(Qu')y a-t-il...", but is more common in everyday speech.

Hi Sarah--

Juts to expand on the information already provided by George and Christine.

The pattern is basically that whenever you use inversion, if you have a third person verb inverted with "il", "elle" or "on", the verb must end in a "t" sound.

With a form such as "perd-il" or "veut-elle", i.e. where the basic verb form aleady ends in a "d" or "t" in the spelling, there isn't a problem: the "d" and "t" are OK to represent a "t" sound when the verb and pronoun are inverted.

But in a form such as "il donne" > "*donne-il", there's an issue because speakers in this case actually pronounce a "t" sound between the "donne" and the "il", as though the verb was "donnet-il". (Once upon a time, it actually was, but as the language has evolved, the "t" sound is now not generally pronounced on the end of a word, and so usually the written form is nowadays "donne": inversion is an exception.) Because the usual written verb form is "donne", not "donnet", in the spelling of the inverted form, something of a 'fudge' is used, and you write "donne-t-il".

Basically, whenever the written form of the verb doesn't already end in a "t" or "d" and you invert it with "il", "elle" or "on", then you insert "-t-" between the verb and pronoun. This applies MAINLY to -er verbs, but also to a few irregulars as you see in your examples.

The thing to understand is that it's just a spelling fudge: the "-t-" doesn't actually mean anything as such.


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