The French verb Avoir (to have) : conjugation and use

We have recently seen the French verb être (to be), one of the most important verbs of French. Another important verb to know is the verb avoir which is also commonly in daily conversations and is used as an auxiliary in compound tenses.

Avoir basically means to have but its meaning can change depending on the context. It is used in most of the sentences and it is a good point to start when learning French.

Learning the verb avoir will make things easy when you will need to build compound tenses or use some expressions containing it.

In this article, you’ll learn discover the different uses of the verb avoir, its conjugation in present tense and some common expressions in which it is used.

1. The different uses of avoir as a verb


As a verb, Avoir can have different meanings. It can :

  • express the possession

Examples

J’ai une voiture => I have a car

J’ai deux sœurs => I have two sisters

  • be used to tell somebody’s age : unlike in English where the verb to be is used to say how old somebody is, in French we use the verb avoir. I am 20 years old would literally be translated as I have 20 years in French.

Example

J’ai 30 ans => I am 30 years old.

  • describe a health condition : when followed by mal à + body part

Example

J’ai mal au dos => I have a back ache or my back hurts.

  • tell someone's state or feeling

Example

J’ai sommeil => I am sleepy

J’ai peur => I am scared

  • tell the existence of something /someone : in that case we use “Il y a” which means there is/there are.

Examples :

Il y a des étudiants dans la classe => There are students in the classroom.

Il y a un livre sur la table => There is a book on the table.

  • Be used to build a compound tense: a compound tense is a conjugation with two verbs : an auxiliary and a past participle.

Example : J’ai vu ta sœur => I have seen your sister


2. Avoir used as a noun


In some other contexts avoir can be used as a noun and not as a verb.

In these cases, avoir can mean:

  • An asset :

Example

J’ai investi tous mes avoirs en bourse. => I invested all my assets in the stock markets.

  • a credit note :

Example : Pourriez-vous me délivrer un avoir sur facture ? => Could you issue a credit note for me?

3. The conjugation of the verb avoir in the present tense


You need to know that the verb avoir is an irregular verb. There is no other rule than learning its pattern by heart. But the good news is that it will ease the conjugation of the other verbs for you.


Below is the way it is conjugated in present tense.

  • J’ai I have

  • Tu as you have

  • Il/elle/on a he/she/we have

  • Nous avons we have

  • Vous avez You have

  • Ils/elles ont They have

4. Expressions with Avoir that actually mean to be in English

A lot of French learners are confused about the use of the expressions below as they are expressed in English with the verb to be. Don’t make again the mistake most of people do.

For that, make sure you write down these expressions in your French note book!

  • avoir sommeil : to be sleepy

  • avoir soif : to be thirsty

  • avoir faim : to be hungry

  • avoir raison : To be right

  • avoir tort : to be wrong

  • avoir peur : to be scared

  • avoir froid : to be cold

  • avoir chaud : to be hot

  • avoir de la chance : to be lucky

5. Commun expression used with avoir


  • Avoir besoin de : to need

J’ai besoin de parler à mon patron => I need to talk to my boss

  • Avoir envie de : to want

Nous avons envie d’aller en Italie cet été. => We want to go to Italy this summer.

  • Avoir du mal à : to find difficult to ...

J’ai du mal à comprendre cet exercice => I am finding it difficult to understand this exercise.

  • Avoir honte : to be ashamed

J’ai vraiment honte de ce que tu as fait. => i am really ashamed about what you did.

  • Avoir l’air : to seem

Cette fille a l’air gentille. => This girl seems kind.

  • Avoir l’habitude de : to have the habit of

Hélène a l’habitude d’aller à la piscine avec ses enfants. Hélène is used to go to the swimming pool with her children.

  • · Avoir confiance en quelqu’un : to trust someone

Je n’ai pas confiance en ce monsieur ; soyons prudentes ! => I don’t trust this guy, let’s be careful!

  • Avoir beau : no matter how

J’ai beau expliquer cet exercice à ma fille, elle n’arrive toujours pas à le comprendre. => No matter how i explain this exercise to my daughter she still can’t understand it.

  • Avoir quelqu’un : to fool somebody

Ce bijoutier m’a bien eue. => This jeweller fooled me.


There are also plenty of idiomatic expressions used with the verb avoir. I will devote a special article to this topic very soon. So stay connected !


To wrap it up

The French verb Avoir basically means to have but it can have different meanings depending on the context. It can be a verb as well as a noun. It is used to build most of the verbs in past tense and it is used in many expressions. Learn its conjugation by heart and French conjugation will become “Un jeu d’enfant’(a child’s play).


I Hope this will be helpful.


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Related

How to conjugate the verb être in French


For practice

Exercise 1

Exercice 2

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