How to use “S’en Aller” — French Grammar for Everyday Life

“Je m’en vais !”
“Va-t’en !”
“Allez-vous en !”

These are all sentences that you’ve seen before in French movies, books, and songs… even if you didn’t quite notice them, or understand what they mean.

You likely already know aller, the French verb for “to go” (and much more!) It’s used everywhere in spoken French. But “Je m’en vais !” “Va-t’en !” or “Allez-vous en !” are even trickier. That’s because they use “s’en aller.”

Today, I’ll show you how to use it in everyday French conversation.

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française! Today, like every Tuesday, I’ll help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French. C’est parti !

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1) Aller (= to go)

In French, the verb “Aller” mostly means to go.

Its conjugation is irregular and, most of the time, you need to add something after it to make sense. Like:

“Je vais manger.” = I’m going to eat
“Tu vas à Paris.” = You’re going to Paris
“Elle va où ?” = Where is she going?

So, how do you use “to go” on its own? As in “OK, I’m going!”, or “It’s time to go” ?

You use “S’en aller” !

2) S’en aller : what does it mean?

This expression can seem strange. You’re probably wondering, what are all these small words for? What’s the first “s,” what’s “en” ?

Well, S’en aller is made of:
→ Aller = “to go” (verb)
→ S’ = “oneself / myself” (pronominal, reflexive pronoun)
→ En = “from here” (pronoun)

Together it means: “for oneself to go from here” = “to leave”
So, s’en aller means “to leave.” It’s that simple!

3) S’en aller : how you can use it

When you use S’en aller in everyday life, the subject, verb and pronominal “s’” all change, but not the “en” pronoun.

For example:

Je m’en vais.
= Je + pronominal “m’” (“myself”) + pronoun “en” + “aller” in the present (“vais”) = I’m going. / I’m leaving.

Tu t’en vas. = You’re leaving.
On s’en va. = We’re leaving. (familiar)
Nous nous en allons. = We’re leaving. (formal)
Vous vous en allez. = You’re leaving. (plural you)
Ils/Elles s’en vont. = They’re leaving.

Obviously, it’s much more fun and dramatic to use it in the imperative:
Va-t’en ! = Go away (singular)
Allez-vous en ! = Go away (plural)

But it’s quite rude, of course.

4) S’en aller : a synonym for “partir”

If S’en aller is too difficult for you to use, you can instead use Partir, which also means “to leave”.

Je m’en vais demain.
= Je pars demain.
= I’m leaving tomorrow.

Il s’en va déjà ?
= Il part déjà ?
= Is he leaving already?

Partir in the present makes:
Je pars [“parr”]
Tu pars [“parr”]
Il part [“parr”]
Nous partons [“parr-ton”]
Vous partez [“parr-tay”]
Ils partent [“parr-tt”]

Want to learn more useful French grammar?

Aller is a very useful French verb for beginners who want to learn conjugation faster — to build “le futur proche”, for example.

It’s also useful to cheer people on (with “Allez!”) and in everyday French greetings, such as “Ça va ?”. “Aller” is everywhere in everyday spoken French!

You’ll find out about those uses in this short playlist I prepared for you. Click each of the links below to discover even more lessons.

Allez !
Le futur proche
French greetings (Ça va?)

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next lesson!

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Allez, salut 🙂

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Another wonderful leçon, Madame Géraldine! Merci beaucoup ! I’m not only a beginner but I’m also not the brightest bulb in the box so I’ve read the lesson numerous times and hand written it into my exercise book word for word in the hope that it sinks in…. okay, so I did add a giant, ‘LOL’ after, “Together it means, “for oneself to go from here” = to leave. It’s that simple!” 😊 But for the moment I may have to just learn the examples off by heart and try and use them without truly understanding them until I do. Merci beaucoup, Madame Géraldine for sharing your wonderful lessons. I look forward to them every week. 💐

  • To say “we’re leaving” in the familiar shouldn’t it be “on nous en va” (rather than using “se”) to match the implied 1st person plural? Or is that a grammatical “error” that is made to cut a syllable?

    • Hi Keith! Good question!

      For pronominal verbs, the reflexive pronoun that goes with “on” is “s’ / se”, even if it’s an implied 1st person plural (especially then, actually)

      But French grammar is tricky. When we use “On” (subject pronoun) + “Nous” (complement pronoun), it’s always a passive voice: “On” means “Somebody / People, but not us.”

      So we would have:
      “On se voit dans le miroir.” = We can see ourselves in the mirror. (OR “People can see themselves in the mirror”, depending on context.)
      “On vous voit dans le miroir.” = We can see you all in the mirror. (OR “You can be seen in the mirror”)
      “On nous voit dans le miroir.” = “People can see us in the mirror.”
      “Nous nous voyons dans le miroir.” = We can see ourselves in the mirroir.

      Hope it’s somewhat clear 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

    • Hi Stephen!

      How would you use it? Where did you find it? Context is important… and also I’m curious about what kind of mistakes (or not) you’d naturally make with “en vouloir,” so we could better explain it.

      “En vouloir” (“Want some” literally) can mean several things, we might make a full lesson about it.

      It can mean:
      a) “Want some / a piece of it” (when the “en” has been previously established) “J’ai du gâteau, tu en veux ?” (= I have cake, do you want some?)
      b) “Holding a grudge against someone / resent someone / blaming someone without forgiving them” = “En vouloir à quelqu’un.” (… “towards someone”)
      “J’en veux à Marie, de m’avoir voler mon vélo.” = “I’m holding a grudge against Marie, for [having stolen] my bike.”
      –> “à [quelqu’un]” often turns into a pronoun: “Je t’en veux.” “Tu m’en veux ?” = “I’m holding a grudge against you.” “Are you blaming me without forgiving?”

      Finally, a third meaning is “being motivated” but it’s kind of slang.
      –> “Lui il en veut, il est prêt à tout” = “He’s really motivated, he’s ready to do anything.”

      The second meaning is the most interesting (and confusing?) of course. In truth, it’s not as strong as “holding a grudge” but it’s still the idea of “blaming without forgiveness.”
      (And it’s messy, as all feelings are; for example, you can “en vouloir” towards someone and yet know that it’s probably irrational to keep that grudge. But then we need art / poetry to explore the variations and deeper meanings of this.)

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Merci beaucoup pour cette explication mais alors quelle est la différence avec ” VAS Y ? ” ici on utilise “Y” avec ce verbe (aller ) les 2 sont utilisés? ” EN ” et ” Y ”
    merci de votre réponse

    • Hi Leslie!

      “Va-t-en” is “s’en aller” = “Leave!”.

      “Vas-y” = “Go there” = “Go!” It has several meanings:
      1) Literally “go there.” –> “Tu n’es pas allé voir ce film ? Sincèrement, vas-y, il est super” = “You didn’t go see this movie? Sincerely, go there (to see it), it’s great.”

      2)a) Cheering. “Vas-y” is the “tu” version of “Allez” (“Come on!”.) “Allez” can also be used for people you use “tu” with, but “Vas-y” can ONLY be used with people with whom you use “tu.”
      See also:
      – Tu or Vous: https://www.commeunefrancaise.com/blog/french-grammar-tu-vous
      – Allez: https://www.commeunefrancaise.com/blog/the-mysterious-use-of-allez-in-french

      b) “Vas-y” as “Come on!” (“Allez!”) can also be used in a variety of ways, such as disappointment (just like “Come on!”).
      “La piscine est fermée ? Oh vas-y, c’est nul.” (= The swimming pool is closed? Oh, come on, that’s lousy.)

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Un grand merci Géraldine. Aussi votre coup de Sassoon; c’est superb et joli. J’imagine beaucoup de fautes de grammaire ici. Je désolé mais j’essaie.

    • Hi Stephanie! Good question!

      1) Je m’en vais = I’m leaving (from here)
      –> Pretty straightforward, you use it to say that you’re leaving the place you’re in right now (a party / a conversation / a city…)

      2) J’y vais = I’m going / I’m leaving OR I’m going there. (“y” is a pronoun for “there”, just as in “il y a” = “there is” / “there are”)

      –> 3 meanings:
      a) just like “Je m’en vais”
      b) “I’m going there.” –> “Tu es allé faire les courses ?” “J’y vais.” (= “Have you been to the grocery store?” “I’m going there now.”)
      c) As a self-cheering expression: “J’ai peur de l’eau mais allez… J’y vais !” (“I’m afraid of water, but, come on… I’m going in / Time to go in !”) –> It’s subtle, and it just stems from the fact that it means “I’m going there / I’m going in”… but it’s close to “Allez” and “Vas-y !” (See my answer to Leslie in the comments on this blog post)

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • small correction under section one: “Tu vas à Paris.” = I’m going to Paris should be ‘You are going to Paris’ I think, right? 🤓

    • Hi Noah!

      You’re absolutely right, thank you!
      I fixed that typo in the written lesson, thanks for your input 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

      • Hi Lucius!

        You’re right. Noah was also right. It used to be written “Tu vas à Paris = I’m going to Paris.” This was a mistake that Noah caught and we fixed it 🙂

        Have a great day,

        – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

    • True! Haha.

      In everyday colloquial French, we often shorten it to “faut que j’y aille” [“foc gee eye”]. That can be easily misunderstood!

      By the way, “il faut que je m’en aille” is also a beautiful song (famous in French boy/girl scouts circles) by the late, binlingual Graeme Alwright : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvfZET096ug

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Francaise

  • Merci de nous donner une très bonne explication du verbe s’en aller… j’utilise souvent ce verbe mais je connaissais pas la signification des composants! Merci.

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