Verbs – Avoir
Pronounced ah-vwar, the verb “avoir,” which means to have, is one of the most important verbs in the French language to know, even for basic conversation. Avoir is the auxiliary for past participle, as well as most French verbs in compound tenses, but I will explain those later, in a more advanced verb post.
J’ (I) ai (have) [pronunciation – zh-ay]*
*An apostrophe must be used to contract je and ai [j’ai]. “Je ai” is never used.
Tu (you, singular) as (have) [pronunciation – to ah]*
*Sometimes tu and as can be contracted to form t’as. It’s used informally, and is usually always acceptable.
Il/Elle/On (he/she/one) a (has) [pronunciation – eel/el/ohn ah]
Nous (we) avons (have) [pronunciation – nooz ah-vohn]
Vous (you, plural; you, formal) avez (have) [pronunciation – vooz ah-vey]
Ils/Elles (they, masculine & feminine plural) ont (have) [pronunciation – eelz/ellez ohn]
The different uses of avoir
These may be more advanced, but it gives you an idea of the different ways this verb can be used.
Avoir mal – ache; be sore
Avoir du mal – have trouble
Avoir la main – be one’s turn
– T’as la main ! – It’s your turn!
Avoir à faire quelque chose – be required to do something; have to do something
Avoir quelque chose / quelqu’un – to have something / someone
– Il a les cheveux blancs. – He has white hair.
– Elle vient d’avoir vingt ans. – She just turned twenty.
Avoir à + infinitive – to have + infinitive
– Laisse-moi tranquille, j’ai à travailler. – Leave me alone, I have work to do.
Avoir quelque chose à + infinitive – to have something to + infinitive
– Nous avons encore toutes les fenêtres du premier à peindre. – We still have all the first floor windows to paint.
Avoir quelque chose contre quelqu’un, en avoir après quelqu’un – to have something against someone
– Pierre en a après ses parents. – Pierre is mad at his parents.
In English expressions where one would normally use “I am”, for example, in French, one would instead use “J’ai…”
J’ai faim – I am hungry (Literally translated as “I have hunger.” See the difference? You would never say in French, “Je suis faim.” The conjugated avoir would always be used.)
J’ai froid/chaud – I am cold/hot
J’ai soif – I am thirsty
J’ai peur – I am afraid (I have fear)
J’ai 20 ans – I am 20 years old
Quel âge avez-vous ? – How old are you? (Literally, “How many years do you have?”)