Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.

Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.

eel nee-yah pah duh few-MAY sah FUH.  

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Not a lot to say about this proverb, except that it reverses the traditional English expression. Literally, there’s no smoke without fire. I’m not convinced that I can say anything profound about that.

So let’s just take a quick look at the grammar instead: For you beginners, the interesting expression here is il y a. Don’t try to dissect it; just take my word for it–it means there is or there are. Don’t try to put another verb after it. This is the verb, even if it doesn’t look much like one. And don’t try to change anything for the plural (there are). Il y a expresses both singular and plural.

So what can you do with it? In the affirmative (a yes-statement), you can say il y a de la fumée (eel yah duh lah few-MAY, there is smoke). Il y a des pommes (eel yah day PUM, there are some apples). Il y a un problème (eel yah uh proh-BLEM, there’s a problem).

In the negative, you have to make a little change, as in Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu. Notice that instead of de la fumée, you have to say de fumée. That’s only true in negative statements. It’s a little like the change we make in English: There is (some) smoke, vs. There isn’t any smoke. Il n’y a pas de pommes (eel nee-yah PAH duh PUM, there aren’t any apples). Il n’y a pas de problème (eel nee-yah pah duh proh-BLEM, there’s no problem).

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