Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 62): le verbe – avoir (l’usage et les expresssions)


Avoir is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and literally means “to have,” including having in one’s possession and currently experiencing. In addition, it is used in numerous idiomatic expressions and as an auxiliary verb.

J’ai deux stylos. I have two pens.
J’ai trois frères. I have three brothers.
J’ai mal à la tête. I have a headache.
J’ai une idée. I have an idea.
J’ai été eu. I’ve been had (tricked).

Avoir à can mean “to have to,” but that expression is more commonly translated by devoir.

Avoir is the auxiliary for most French verbs in the compound tenses, for example:

J’ai déjà étudié. I have already studied.
J’aurai mangé avant ton arrivée. I will have eaten before you arrive.
Si j’avais su, je t’aurais téléphoné. If I had known, I would have called you.

Avoir is used in a number of idiomatic expressions. Learn how to be lucky, feel blue, hold a grudge, and more with avoir.

avoir ___ ans
to be ___ years old

avoir à  + infinitive
to have to do something

avoir beau + infinitive
despite doing, however much (one) does

avoir besoin de – to need

avoir chaud – to be hot

avoir confiance en – to trust

avoir de la chance – to be lucky

avoir du charme – to have charm

avoir du chien (informal) – to be attractive, have a certain something

avoir du pain sur la planche (informal) – to have a lot to do, have a lot on one’s plate

avoir du pot (informal) – to be lucky

avoir envie de – to want

avoir faim – to be hungry

avoir froid – to be cold

avoir honte de – to be ashamed of/about

avoir horreur de – to detest/loathe

avoir l’air + adjective
to look ____

avoir l’air de + noun
to look like a ____

avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre – to have one’s cake and eat it too

avoir le cafard (informal) – to feel low/blue/down in the dumps

avoir le fou rire – to have the giggles

avoir le mal de mer – to be seasick

avoir les chevilles qui enflent (informal) – to be full of oneself

avoir l’habitude de – to be used to, in the habit of

avoir l’heure – to have (know) the time

avoir lieu – to take place

avoir l’intention de – to intend/plan to

avoir mal à la tête, aux yeux, à l’estomac – to have a headache, eye ache, stomachache

avoir mal au cœur – to be sick to one’s stomach

avoir peur de – to be afraid

avoir raison– to be right

avoir soif– to be thirsty

avoir sommeil – to be sleepy

avoir tort – to be wrong

avoir un chat dans la gorge – to have a frog in one’s throat

avoir un cheveu (sur la langue) (informal) – to lisp

avoir un petit creux (informal) – to be a little hungry/peckish

avoir un poil dans la main (informal) – to be lazy

avoir un trou (de mémoire) – to have a memory loss, to have one’s mind go blank

avoir une dent contre quelqu’un (informal) – to hold a grudge against someone

en avoir (familiar) –  to have guts

en avoir ras le bol (informal) – to be fed up

il y a

il y a + noun
there is, there are ___

il y a + period of time
___ ago

n’avoir qu’à + infinitive
to just/only have to do something

Quand les poules auront des dents ! When pigs fly!

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