Avoir: How to Use and Conjugate the Essential French Verb (2023)

Avoir is the French verb that means “to have”. But it has so much more than that going for it!

For one thing, as you probably know already, avoir is the most common auxiliary (helping) verb in French. It’s used to conjugate most other French verbs in the passé composé and other compound tenses.

That would be more than enough for most verbs, but avoir’s got to have it all! It’s also a key element of a number of very important phrases that cover basics like how old you are, what you need, and your state of physical health, not to mention what’s around you. And those are just the basics. There are countless phrases with avoir, many of them essential to add to your French vocabulary.

Let’s take a look at this surprisingly diverse verb!

Table of Contents

Avoir conjugation

What does avoir mean?

Avoir as a verb

(Video) Avoir (to have) — Present Tense (French verbs conjugated by Learn French With Alexa)

Must-know expressions with avoir

Avoir conjugation

Most common conjugations of avoir

PresentFuturePassé composé
J’aiJ’auraiJ’ai eu
Tu asTu aurasTu as eu
Il/elle/on aIl/elle/on auraIl/elle/on a eu
Nous avonsNous auronsNous avons eu
Vous avezVous aurezVous avez eu
Ils/elles ontIls/elles aurontIls/elles ont eu
ImparfaitConditionalSubjunctive
J’avaisJ’auraisJ’aie
Tu avaisTu auraisTu aies
Il/elle/on avaitIl/elle/on auraitIl/elle/on ait
Nous avionsNous aurionsNous ayons
Vous aviezVous auriezVous ayez
Ils/elles avaientIls/elles auraientIls aient

Imperative (Like some irregular verbs, the imperative form of avoir is based on its present subjunctive conjugation, not presents simple.)
aie (tu)
ayons (nous)
ayez (vous)

Less common conjugations of avoir

These verb tenses aren’t used as frequently in everyday spoken or written French, but they are useful to know – and in many cases, to use:

Plus-que-parfait
j’avais eu
tu avais eu
il/elle/on avait eu
nous avions eu
vous aviez eu
ils/elles avaient eu
Passé simplePassé antérieur
j’eusj’eus eu
tu eustu eus eu
il/elle/on eutil/elle/on eut eu
nous eûmesnous eûmes eu
vous eûtesvous eûtes eu
ils/elles eurentils/elles eurent eu
Futur antérieurFutur proche
j’aurai euje vais avoir
tu auras eutu vas avoir
il/elle/on aura euil/elle/on va avoir
nous aurons eunous allons avoir
vous aurez euvous allez avoir
ils/elles auront euils/elles vont avoir
Conditionnnel du passé
j’aurais eu
tu aurais eu
il/elle/on aurait eu
nous aurions eu
vous auriez eu
ils/elles auraient eu
Passé du subjonctifImparfait du subjonctifPlus-que-parfait du subjonctif
j’aie euj’eusseje eusse eu
tu aies eutu eussestu eusses eu
il/elle/on ait euil/elle/on eûtil/elle/on eût eu
nous ayons eunous ayons eussionsnous eussions eu
vous ayez euvous ayez eussiezvous eussiez eu
ils/elles aient euils/elles eussentils/elles eussent eu

What does avoir mean?

As a standalone verb, avoir means ‘to have’.

As an auxiliary (helping) verb, it’s essentially an indicator of a verb tense and doesn’t suggest possession.

For example: J’ai cinq pommes (I have five apples) vs. J’ai mangé cinq pommes (I ate five apples).

Avoir can also be a noun. Un avoir usually means a receipt that shows you have store credit. For example: Le magasin ne fait pas de remboursements, mais je peux vous faire un avoir. (The store doesn’t give cash for returned items, but I can give you store credit.)

Another definition for avoir is “asset”, but this is not very commonly used in everyday language in France.

Avoir as a verb

Avoir is the second most common French verb. So, naturally, it’s one of the first verbs you learn when you start studying the language. Like many frequently used verbs, it’s irregular, which means you’ll have to memorize it. You can find a conjugation chart here.

The good news about memorizing avoir is that you’ll use it so often that this will be easier than you might think!

One other thing to note about avoir is that its imperative forms are conjugated in the subjunctive: aie (this still follows the imperative rule of dropping the final “s” for the second-person singular verb), ayez, ayons.

(Video) Être & Avoir (French Essentials Lesson 10)

You’ll often see these used with the negative tense. For example: N’ayez pas peur. (Don’t be afraid.) As the example shows, the imperative usually involves expressions with avoir, rather than its standalone meaning of “to have”.

Using avoir as an auxiliary verb should be easy, compared to using its fellow auxiliary verb, être. After all, you don’t have to agree objects and participles when you use it, right? Unfortunately, while this is true as a general rule, there are a few exceptions.

When avoir is an auxiliary verb, you have to agree the object and the past participle if…

1. You replace a direct object by an object pronoun.

For example: Elle a acheté la robe (She bought the dress) – no agreement.

Elle l’a achetée. (She bought it.) – agreement because la robe has been replaced by the object pronoun (la, used here as l’ because it’s followed by a noun).

Or: Je t’ai acheté des gâteaux. (I bought you some cookies) – no agreement.

Je les ai achetés pour toi. (I bought them for you. Agreement because des gateaux is replaced by les)

2. If you describe something with que followed by another clause.

For example: J’ai lu une histoire fascinante. (I read a fascinating story.) – no agreement.

C’est une histoire fascinante que Simone a écrite. (It’s a beautiful story that Simone wrote.)

Or: Ce matin, j’ai vu deux chats dans le jardin. (This morning, I saw two cats in the garden.) – no agreement.

Voici les deux chats que j’ai vus dans le jardin! (There are the two cats I saw in the garden!)

This very helpful article includes a good explanation of these rules, as well as a number of examples.

(Video) Avoir (to have) in 5 Main French Tenses

The agreement rules with avoir may seem a bit confusing – and to be perfectly honest, I still forget about them from time to time, even after years of speaking and living in France. The best thing to do is to keep practicing and try to stay aware of these exceptions. See if you can spot them in things you read in French.

Should you use avoir or être to conjugate a verb?

Avoir: How to Use and Conjugate the Essential French Verb (1)

Both avoir and être can be auxiliary (helping) verbs, used in conjugating other verbs in compound tenses. But that doesn’t mean you should use them interchangeably!

You can check out our article on être for the list of verbs (often identified by the acronym Dr. Mrs. P. Vandertramp) that use être as an auxiliary verb.

Reflexive verbs, as well as verbs used in a reflexive sense, are also conjugated with être.

But things get a bit tricky again here: some verbs that are usually not reflexive, can become reflexive depending on the context. For example, the verb dire is conjugated with avoir. But if you want to imply “saying something to each other, saying something to oneself, saying something to themselves, etc.”, you would make this a reflexive verb and conjugate it with être instead.

For example: J’ai dit de ne pas m’embêter! (I said not to bother me!)

Je me suis dit que cela ne serait pas une journée facile. (I told myself that it wouldn’t be an easy day.)

Rest assured, this doesn’t happen a lot. And as you practice and get to know French better, deciding when or if you need to make a verb reflexive will become, well, a reflex.

Must-know expressions with avoir

As I wrote in the introduction, avoir is also important because it makes up many essential French phrases. Here are the ones you absolutely must know, in no particular order:

Il y a (There is/There are). Don’t get confused: although the verb avoir is conjugated in this phrase, it never changes to agree with what comes after.

Examples: Il y a une fourmi sur la table. (There’s an ant on the table.); Il y a beaucoup de fourmis sur la table! (There are a lot of ants on the table!).

As with all of the phrases on this list, the verb does change tense, though. Example: Il y aura pas mal de monde à la fête ce soir. (There will be a lot of people at the party tonight.)

avoir _ ans (to be _ years old). This was probably one of the first statements you learned to say in French. Example: J’ai trente-sept ans. (I’m thirty-seven years old.)

avoir besoin de (to need something). You can use this with a noun or with the infinitive of a verb. Examples: J’ai besoin d’un nouveau vélo. (I need a new bike)/Son chien a besoin de courir. (His dog needs to run.)

(Video) Practise your French verb AVOIR (TO HAVE)

avoir envie de (to want). As with the previous example, you can use this phrase with a noun or with the infinitive of a verb. Examples: J’ai envie de chocolat. (I want some chocolate.)/J’ai envie de me reposer. (I want to rest a little.).

Note that, like in English, this phrase can also be used to talk about sexual desire. J’ai envie de toi (I want you) is a phrase you’ll hear in a lot of French movies/TV shows, and maybe in real life, too!

avoir faim/avoir soif (to be hungry/to be thirsty). Example: «Merci pour le sandwich! J’avais très faim!» « De rien. Tu veux de l’eau?» «Non merci, je n’ai pas soif.» (“Thanks for the sandwich! I was so hungry!” “No problem. Do you want some water?” “No thanks, I’m not thirsty.”)

avoir froid/chaud (to feel cold/to feel hot). «Oh là là, j’ai chaud! On met la clim’? » «Non! Si on la met, j’aurai trop froid.» (‘Oh, I’m hot! Can we put on the A.C.?’ ‘No! If we put it on, I’ll be too cold.’)

Note that this expression is only used to describe someone experiencing feeling hot or cold.

If something is hot or cold to the touch, you would use être. For example: Attention! Les patates sont chaudes, laisse-les refroidir. (Watch out! The potatoes are too hot, let them cool off.).

If the air around you feels hot or cold, use faire, as you would to describe most weather- or atmosphere-related phenomenon in French. Il fait chaud dans cette pièce ! (It’s hot in this room!).

Be careful to never say that a person is hot or cold. If you do, it either means they’re horny (chaud(e)) or frigid (froid(e)).

If you want to say that a person feels hot or cold to the touch, you can either specify where: Son front est chaud, il a peut-être de la fièvre. (His forehead is hot, he might have a fever.) or specify what you mean. Il est chaud au toucher (He’s hot to the touch).

avoir peur (de) (to be afraid (of)). You can use this as a standalone statement: Ils ont peur. (They’re afraid./They’re scared.) or with a noun or verb infinitive: Ils ont peur du noir (They’re afraid of the dark.); J’ai toujours peur de rater mon train, même si j’arrive très tôt à la gare. (I’m always afraid of missing my train, even if I get to the train station really early.)/Comme beaucoup de gens, j’ai peur des araignées. (Like many people, I’m scared of spiders.)

avoir mal (à la tête, au ventre, etc.) (to have an ache/pain (in the head, stomach, etc.). Example: Je pense que j’ai attrapé la grippe! J’ai mal à la tête, mal au ventre…mal partout! (I think I caught the flu! My head hurts, my stomach hurts…everything hurts!)

avoir raison/avoir tort (to be right/to be wrong). Example: Si tu me dis que les chats sont plus adorables que les chiens, je dirai que tu as raison, mais ce chien dira que tu as tort! (If you told me that cats are cuter than dogs, I’d say that you’re right, but this dog would say you’re wrong!).

I hope you’ve had a good time learning about the different facets of avoir. Do you have a favorite avoir expression? Let us know – especially if it’s not already on the list!

FAQs

How do you conjugate the verb avoir in French? ›

Let's conjugate AVOIR
  1. I have = J'ai. I have two dogs = J'ai deux chiens.
  2. You have = Tu as (casual) You have a big problem = Tu as un gros problème.
  3. She has = Elle a. ...
  4. He has = Il a. ...
  5. We have = on a. ...
  6. We have = nous avons. ...
  7. You have = vous avez (formal or you all) ...
  8. They have = Elles ont (for an exclusively feminine group)
25 Oct 2018

What is avoir used for? ›

Avoir literally means "to have," but also serves an an auxiliary verb and is found in many idiomatic expressions.

How do I use avoir in a sentence? ›

Examples
  1. J'ai un livre. Or in English: I have a book.
  2. Tu as une carte. Or: You have a map.
  3. Elle a les chapeaux. She has the hats.
  4. Nous avons du lait. We have milk.
  5. Vous avez une question. You have a question.
  6. Ils ont le tableau. They have the painting.

What are the avoir words? ›

Idiomatic Expressions
  • avoir … ans (to be … years old)
  • avoir l'air (to appear)
  • avoir besoin de (to need)
  • avoir chaud (to be hot)
  • avoir de la chance (to be lucky)
  • avoir froid (to be cold)
  • avoir envie de (to feel like, to want)
  • avoir faim (to be hungry)

How many avoir verbs are there? ›

Each letter stands for one of the 13 verbs.

How do you conjugate avoir in past tense? ›

To form the passé composé of verbs using avoir, conjugate avoir in the present tense (j'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont) and add the past participle of the verb expressing the action. Put the words together this way: subject + helping verb (usually avoir) + past participle.

What are avoir verbs in French? ›

Avoir (to have) is a very useful verb and is used whenever we would say 'have' in English. It ‎is also used to form other tenses, such as the passé composé (the perfect tense). J'ai les cheveux noirs - I have black hair.‎

How do you remember avoir? ›

The French verb AVOIR means to have. To remember this imagine: you HAVE A VOW to keep. AVOIR has many uses, besides meaning 'to have'.

What tense is avoir? ›

present tense

Why is avoir used for age? ›

Use avoir (to have) to talk about age

As you probably remember, avoir is the French verb “to have.” This means that when you ask someone's age, you're literally asking, “What age do you have?” This can be difficult to remember for English speakers, who use the verb “to be” when expressing age. (“How old are you?”)

What is the meaning of avoir? ›

Avoir is an irregular French verb that means "to have." The multitalented verb avoir is omnipresent in the French written and spoken language and appears in a multitude of idiomatic expressions, thanks to its utility and versatility. It is one of the most used French verbs.

What are the 4 main French verbs? ›

Big 4 French verbs
  • etre = to be.
  • avoir = to have.
  • aller = to go.
  • faire = to do.

What are the 20 most used verbs in French? ›

Master French conjugation: 20 Most widely used French verbs and their conjugation
  • Être (to be)
  • Avoir (to have)
  • Aller (to go)
  • Parler (to speak/talk)
  • Faire (to do)
  • Prendre (to take)
  • Vouloir (to want)
  • Savoir (to know)
12 Sept 2022

What are the 17 être verbs? ›

allé, arrivé, venu, revenu, entré, rentré, descendu, devenu, sorti, parti, resté, retourné, monté, tombé, né et mort.

What is avoir in perfect tense? ›

Once you have formed your past participle, you need to select the correct part of avoir you want to use.
...
How to form the perfect tense with avoir.
EnglishSubject pronounAvoir – to have
you (informal)tuas
he/she/it (we)il/elle/ona
wenousavons
you (formal, plural)vousavez
2 more rows

How do you conjugate avoir in the passé composé? ›

To form the passé composé of verbs using avoir, conjugate avoir in the present tense (j'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont) and add the past participle of the verb expressing the action. Put the words together this way: subject + helping verb (usually avoir) + past participle.

How do you conjugate avoir in French in past tense? ›

Conjugate the verb voir:
  1. je vois. tu vois.
  2. il voyait. nous avons vu.
  3. vous verrez.
  4. ils verraient.

How do you use avoir and être? ›

In short, it's said that these verbs must use être when there is no direct object and avoir when there is a direct object. More on this in a moment. In addition to these verbs, reflexive verbs take être as their auxiliary (reflexive verbs have a se in their infinitive).

How do you use avoir and être in passé composé? ›

We conjugate the passé composé using the auxiliary verbs avoir or être followed by the past participle (le participe passé) of the verb. J'ai parlé, nous avons étudié, ils ont choisi, elles sont allées…

What are the 3 steps to conjugate verbs? ›

Here are the steps of conjugating regular verbs in the present tense:
  • Choose the verb you need.
  • Write only the stem (the verb without the -ar, -er, or -ir ending.)
  • Add the ending that matches the subject.

What are the 4 French verbs? ›

Big 4 French verbs
  • etre = to be.
  • avoir = to have.
  • aller = to go.
  • faire = to do.

What are the 3 French verbs? ›

To simplify things, French has classified regular verbs into three groups, based on the ending of their infinitives : -er (manger to eat), -ir (finir to finish), -re (attendre to wait).

Videos

1. French Verb Conjugation Practice with 50 French Sentences : 3 common verbs - aller, avoir, être
(One Spoon French)
2. Avoir (to have) — Past Tense (French verbs conjugated by Learn French With Alexa)
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3. Quiz French conjugation | Verb AVOIR / ÊTRE present tense.
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4. LEARN FRENCH VERB AVOIR (To Have) - Avoir Conjugation Present Tense
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5. Beginner French (Grammar) - Conjugation and simple uses of the verb "Avoir" (to have) in French
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6. French conjugation - How to memorize French verbs (5 EASY Tips)
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