How to use the verb 'to have' in French

Avoir (to have) – a very useful verb

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.‎
  • Tu as un chat? - Do you have a cat?‎
  • Elle a un frère - She has a brother.‎
  • J’ai mangé une pomme - I have eaten/I ate an apple.

How to form avoir in the present tense

Avoir is an irregular verb, which means that it doesn’t follow the same pattern as regular ‎verbs in the present tense.‎

This is how to conjugate the I, you (singular, informal) and he/she forms of avoir in the ‎present tense:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I havej’aiJ’ai un chien ‎- I have a dog.‎
you (singular, informal) ‎havetu asTu as des frères ou des sœurs? ‎- Do you have any brothers or sisters?‎
he / she hasil / elle aIl a beaucoup d’amis ‎- He has lots of friends.‎

How to use avoir in the past

To talk about things you and other people had in the past, you can use the imperfect ‎tense of avoir.‎

This is how to conjugate the I, you and he/she forms of avoir in the imperfect tense:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I had‎j’avaisJ’avais un chien quand ‎j’étais jeune ‎- I had a dog when I was ‎little.‎
you hadtu avaisTu avais une voiture bleue? ‎- Did you (use to) have a ‎blue car?‎
he / she hadil / elle avaitMa grand-mère avait les ‎cheveux noirs ‎- My grandmother used to ‎have black hair.‎

How to use avoir in the future

To talk about things you are going to have in the future, you use the correct form of aller ‎‎(to go) plus the infinitive avoir (to have). This tense is called the immediate future and is ‎translated as 'I am going to have', 'you are going to have', 'he/she is going to have'. ‎You form it as follows: ‎

EnglishFrenchExample
I am going to haveje vais avoirJe vais avoir un cheval ‎- I’m going to have a horse.‎
you are going to havetu vas avoirTu vas avoir un petit frère ‎- You’re going to have a ‎little brother.
he / she is going to haveil / elle va avoirElle va avoir une grande ‎fête d’anniversaire - She’s going to have a big ‎birthday party.

Some more useful expressions using avoir ‎

Sometimes, avoir (to have) is used in French where 'to be' is used in English. Here are ‎some useful expressions where this is the case:‎

EnglishFrenchExample
to be … years oldavoir … ansJ’ai onze ans‎ ‎- I’m 11 years old.‎
there is/there areil y a …‎Il y a deux supermarchés ‎dans ma ville - There are two ‎supermarkets in my town.‎
there isn’t/there aren’til n’y a pas de…‎Il n’y a pas de cinéma dans ‎ma ville ‎- There isn’t a cinema in my ‎town.‎ ‎
to be hungry / thirstyavoir faim / soifMa mère a faim - My mum is hungry.‎
to be hot / coldavoir chaud / froidJ’ai froid - I’m cold.‎
to be afraidavoir peurJ’ai peur des araignées - I’m scared of spiders.‎

Quiz

Find out how much you know about the verb avoir in this short quiz.

Where next?

Discover more from around Bitesize.

Describing people in French using 'avoir' and 'être'
The present tense: How to talk about what you do in French
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