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

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

We have recently seen the conjugation of the verb être (to be) in French , one of the most important French verbs. Another must-know is verb is avoir which basically means to have in French 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 conjugation of 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 the different uses of the verb avoir, its conjugation in present tense, and some related common expressions.

We will not discuss today tenses like futur simple, imparfait, passé composé, subjonctif..., as we are planning to dedicate later an article to the other tenses conjugation.

French verb avoir (to have) : it's use and conjugation


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1. How to use the verb avoir as a verb?


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

🔹 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 , the verb avoir describes a pain or something that hurts. 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: generally an auxiliary and a past participle. The passé composé for example is a compound tense.

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





2. The French verb 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. How to say I have, you have in French? Present tense conjugation


You need to know that the verb to have in French 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. For instance, the verb avoir is used as an auxiliary in past tenses like le passé composé, le plus-que-parfait, le conditionnel passé, ...


Below is how to say I have in French, You have, ... In other terms its conjugation in the 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.

To translate to be sleepy in French, many learners will try to do a direct English to French translation. They will be tempted to say "Je suis sommeil" which is totally wrong.


To avoid these mistakes, make sure you write down these expressions in your French notebook and learn them for good!


🔹 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

Expressions with the French verb avoir (to have)

5. Common avoir expressions in Fench

Here are some common avoir expressions in French, with examples of sentences. that you should know.


🔹 Avoir besoin de : to need

Example: 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).



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