'Je Vais': Don't Make This Mistake in French

You should be saying 'J'y vais' or 'Je m'en vais'

A couple in a cafe
This couple goes to the café. Ezra Bailey/Taxi/Getty Images

In English, you can say "I'm going," and everyone will understand that you're either leaving your current location or on your way to a new destination that was previously mentioned.

'Je Vais' Is Incomplete

In French, however, je vais is incomplete. You need to spell it out, as in Je vais en France (I'm going to France") or Je vais partir maintenant ("I'm going to leave now"). Or you could use an adverbial pronoun such as y ("there") or en in the pronominal idiom s'en aller ("to go"). For example: 

  • J'y vais. > I'm going. 
  • Je m'en vais. > I'm off / I'm leaving.

In French, Spell It Out

On a similar note, in English you can say "I'm going to" or "He's going to" as an alternate form of the future tense to indicate that you are or he is going to do something that was previously mentioned. Again, in French you have to spell it out. For example:

  • Je vais le faire. > I'm going to do it.
  • Il va nous aider. > He's going to help us.

Examples of 'J'y vais,' 'Je m'en vais' and Variations

y aller:

  • J'y vais ce soir. > I'm going there this evening.
  • Quand faut y aller, faut y aller. > When you've got to go, you've got to go.
  • Allons-y! > Let's go! 
  • Vas-y! > Go on! 
  • On y vas? > Are we going?
  • Je dois y aller. > I have to go.  
  • Tu y vas un peu fort. > You're going a bit too far. / You're going a bit far.
  • y aller mollo (familiar) > to go easy / take it easy 
  • y aller franco > get straight to the point / go right ahead
  • y aller franchement > to go at it ​

s'en aller [pronominal]:

  • Il est tard, il faut que je m'en aille. > It's late; I should go.  
  • Va-t-en! > Go away!  
  • Va-t'en de là ! > Get away from there !
  • ​Je lui donnerai la clé en m'en allant. > I'll give him the key on my way out.
  • Tous les jeunes s'en vont du village. >  All the young people are leaving the village.
  • Ça s'en ira au lavage / avec du savon. > It'll come off in the wash / with soap.
  • Leur dernière lueur d'espoir s'en est allée. > Their last glimmer of hope is gone / has vanished.
  • Il s'en fut trouver le magicien. > He went off to find the wizard.
  • Je m'en vais lui dire ses quatre vérités ! (familiar) > I'm going to tell her a few home truths !