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Avoir in French: Conjugation & Meaning

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

One of the most important verbs in the French language is 'avoir,' to have. In this lesson, we not only go over its conjugation and its meaning, but also learn just how important it is to other tenses.

A Most Useful Verb

In every language, there are those workhorse verbs that really pull their weight to make the whole language that much better. Avoir (pronounced av-wah), or 'to have', is a great example of one of those in French. While the verb may just mean 'to have,' avoir has many uses beyond that. In fact, without avoir, entire tenses of the French language would be impossible! In this lesson, we're not only going to look at the forms of avoir in both present and perfect tenses, but we're also going to look at examples of it in action. Finally, we'll also learn more about just how useful avoir is throughout the French language.

Conjugation

First of all, let's conjugate avoir in the present tense:

Pronoun and Verb Pronunciation
J'ai J'ay
Tu as tu ah
Il a Il ah
Nous avons Newz-ah-vohn
Vous avez Vewz-ah-vey
Ils ont Ilz-onh

Now before we go any further, do you see how each of those pronunciations took into account the pronoun? This is an important part of French and makes sure that you sound educated. A lot of the time, you'll use avoir with a pronoun. However, sometimes you won't. Therefore, here's a pronunciation chart that separates those last three versions out:

Pronoun Verb Pronunciation
Nous Avons Ah-vohn
Vous Avez Ah-vey
Ils Ont Onh

That way, you can say Marie et moi avons without having to sound harsh by saying Marie et moi, nous avons. Both mean 'Marie and I have', but the first one is much more casual, and frankly not as forceful as the second one. The first example is just normal conversation, while the second one is very much the style you'd expect a mother to use when saying to go clean a room now.

Examples

Here are some more examples of avoir at work:

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

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