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

Updated: Mar 29

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


  • 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


  • 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


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