Il a faim!



The verb “avoir” – “to have” in English – is sprinkled throughout the French language. Once you've gotten past basic greetings in French, you'll find yourself needing more and more expressions that require the verb avoir.


While it’s very common for beginners to rely on word-for-word translation from English into French, the fact is that this isn’t a reliable strategy. French people don’t translate; they simply speak French.


English-speakers will often make the mistake of saying things like “Je suis 25 ans” or “Je suis chaud”, direct word-for-word translations from English. Unfortunately, direct translations like this are often incorrect. They sound as strange to French-speakers as “I have 25 years” or “I have hot” would sound to English-speakers. Remember – speaking another language isn’t about translating words. It’s about communicating ideas!


If you want to be able to converse comfortably and fluently with French natives, then learning some of these expressions will help you get closer to your goal!


avoir ___ ans

to have ___ years / to be ___ years old

C’est la fête de ma fille. Elle a cinq ans aujourd’hui!

It’s my daughter’s birthday. She’s five years old today!


avoir mal

to have pain (usually followed by à/au/aux + body part)

J’ai mal à la tête. Je vais me coucher de bonne heure ce soir.

I have a headache. I’m going to bed early tonight.


avoir chaud

to be hot / to feel hot

Le garçon a enlevé son manteau parce qu’il avait chaud.

The boy took off his coat because he was hot.


avoir froid

to be cold / to feel cold

J’ai froid. Où sont mes mitaines?

I’m cold. Where are my mittens?


avoir faim

to be hungry (to have hunger)

Le bébé n’arrête pas de pleurer. Je pense qu’il a faim.

The baby won’t stop crying. I think that he’s hungry.


avoir soif

to be thirsty / to have thirst

Le chien a soif après cette longue promenade.

The dog is thirsty after that long walk.


avoir peur de

to be afraid of / to have fear of

Il ne voulait pas dormir seul. Il avait trop peur des fantômes!

He didn’t want to sleep alone. He was too afraid of ghosts!


avoir besoin de

to need / to have need of

Tu as besoin d’appeler au bureau avant de partir.

You have to call the office before leaving.


avoir raison

to be right

Il avait raison. Je n’aurais pas dû dépenser tout mon argent.

He was right. I shouldn’t have spent all of my money.


avoir tort

to be wrong

Non, tu as tort.

No, you’re wrong.


avoir l'habitude de

to have the habit of

J’ai l’habitude de prendre un café le matin.

I have the habit of drinking a coffee in the morning.


avoir le temps de

to have the time to

Aurez-vous le temps de terminer votre rapport avant la fin de semaine?

Will you have time to finish your report before the weekend?


avoir l'air

to seem / to have the appearance of

Tu as l’air très fatigué ce matin.

You seem very tired this morning.


It’s important to learn expressions – such as the ones in this article – so that you, too, can speak French, rather than simply saying English words in another language.


Bon apprentissage!


Image by Ravi Jandhyala (CC BY 2.0)