There was once... Il ya

In many cases, Dutch is so much easier than French. Take ‘il y a’ or ‘il y avait’. Still, if you know the rules, in this case it is not too bad.

Let’s start with the pronunciation. As you know, the French always make a continuous tone of everything they say, so that everything sounds like 1 word. So ‘il y a’ sounds like ‘iejja’.

‘Il y a’ has 2 meanings. ‘There is’, or ‘there are’ and ‘ago’.


There is room for improvement.
> Il ya une marge de progrès.

Sorry, but something has come up.
> Desolé, mail il ya eu un imprévu.

There are many people in the room.
> Il ya beaucoup de monde dans la salle.

It has been too long.
> C’était il ya si longtemps.

We saw him 3 years ago.
> On l’a vu il ya 3 ans.

She went upstairs 20 minutes ago.
> Elle est montée il ya 20 minutes.

When you want to say ‘there was’ or ‘there were’, you use ‘il y avait’.

There was a strange noise.
> Il y avait un bruit étrange.

And the beginning of every fairy tale, “Once upon a time …”? French fairytales start with ‘Il était une fois’. So you don’t use ‘il y a’ there.