Verbs – Devoir

Devoir – to owe, must, out, to have to

Devoir is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and has a number of different meanings.

The basic meaning of devoir is “to owe”.

  • Qu’est-ce que je vous dois? – What do I owe you?

It is also used to express obligation – with a following infinitive. The conditional tense is more mild and more polite than the present tense.

  • Je dois partir tout de suite. – I must leave at once.
  • Vous devriez la voir avant de partir. – You must see her before leaving.

Devoir also expresses supposition, inference, and probability.

  • Vous devriez être fatigué après votre voyage. You must be/probably are tired after your trip.
  • Il doit être malade. – He must be/probably is sick.

Translating devoir

Devoir can be translated by should, must, ought to, have to, supposed to – the distinction between necessity and probability is not always clear.

  • Je dois faire le lessive. – I should/must/ought to do the laundry.
  • Il doit arriver demain. – He supposed to/should arrive tomorrow.

To specify “must” rather than “should”, add a word like absolument or vraiment.

  • Je dois absolument partir. – I really must go.
  • Nous devons vraiment te parler. – We must speak to you.

To specify “should” rather than “must”, use the conditional tense.

  • Tu devrais partir. – You should go.
  • Ils devraient lui parler. – They should talk to him.


Devoir bonus!

Devoir is a masculine noun meaning “duty” (le devoir), or “duties” (les devoirs). “Les devoirs” is also homework. (Je dois faire les devoirs. – I should do homework.)

Have a great week, readers! Please feel free to leave a comment or request a lesson. 🙂

À bientôt !



One thought on “Verbs – Devoir

  1. Pingback: Devoir vs. Falloir | Learn French Avec Moi

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