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All You Need to Know About the Avoir Conjugation in French

Mastering the French verb conjugation can be quite a challenge for a language learner. While there’s a number of regular conjugation patterns that can help you tremendously with this process, the avoir conjugation is irregular and you’ll have to learn it by heart.

What Does Avoir Mean?

The basic avoir meaning in English is “to have” but it can be different, depending on the context in which it’s used.

Why Is Knowing the Avoir Conjugation Important?

This verb is crucial not only because of its meaning, but also its other uses as an auxiliary verb in compound tenses.

Oh dear, grammar jargon alert! A compound tense requires the use of an auxiliary verb and a main verb (= the verb you actually want to use) in the right form.
Think about an auxiliary as a “helping” verb that accompanies the main verb.

Compare these two sentences:

Je prends mon petit déjeuner sur la terrasse. – “I have (literally: take) my breakfast on the terrace.”

It’s a simple tense. There’s only one verb: the correct form of the verb prendre (“to take”).

Hier, j’ai pris mon petit déjeuner sur la terrasse. – “I had (literally: took) my breakfast on the terrace yesterday.”

It’s a compound tense. There are two verbs: the auxiliary avoir and prendre.

Your choice of an auxiliary verb is between avoir and être (“to be”). Avoir is your go to verb used in the majority of cases. You can find out more about when you should use être instead in this article.

The tenses and moods in this article are paired in a way that helps you notice patterns and remember the avoir conjugation more easily.

The Avoir Conjugation in the Present Tense

The forms of avoir in the present tense (le présent) are the first ones you should learn. Here they are:

Singular Plural
J’ai – I have Nous avons – we have
Tu as – you have Vous avez – you have
Il/elle/on a – he/she/one has Ils/Elles ont – they have

Below you can find some examples of how to use avoir in this tense with the expression avoir peur (“to be scared”):

J’ai peur de toi. – “I’m scared of you.”

Il a peur de l’eau. – “He’s scared of water.”

The Avoir Conjugation in the Passé Composé

Passé composé is a compound past tense and it uses the forms of the auxiliary verb in the present tense. To create a sentence in the passé composé you need:

  • The form of avoir or être in the présent,
  • A verb form called participe passé (past participle) of the main verb.

You can find the rules of formation of the participe passé here, if you don’t know them yet. Now, have a look at an example of the passé composé with the verb entendre (“to hear”):

Singular Plural
J’ai entendu – I heard Nous avons entendu – we heard
Tu as entendu – you heard Vous avez entendu – you heard
Il/elle/on a entendu – he/she/one heard Ils/Elles ont entendu – they heard

Here are some examples of this tense’s use:

Nous avons entendu les nouvelles. – “We heard the news.”

Vous avez passé l’examen. – “You took the exam.”

J’ai vu mon père. – “I saw my father.”

The Avoir Conjugation in the Imparfait

Some other important forms of avoir are the ones in a past tense, l’imparfait. You can see them all below:

Singular Plural
J’avais – I had Nous avions – we had
Tu avais – you had Vous aviez – you had
Il/elle/on avait – he/she/one had
Ils/Elles avaient – they had

Avoir tort (“to be wrong/incorrect”) is a very useful expression with avoir:

J’avais tort. – “I was wrong.”

Avoir raison (“to be right/correct”) is another handy phrase:

Nous avions raison ! – “We were right!”

You can learn the difference between the passé composé and the imparfait when expressing actions in the past by following this link.

The Avoir Conjugation in the Plus-Que-Parfait

The forms of avoir in the imparfait are also used to form a compound tense, the French equivalent of Past Perfect in English, le plus-que-parfait.

The formation pattern for the plus-que-parfait is as follows:

avoir/être in the imparfait + participe passé of the main verb

Let’s see how to conjugate in this tense using the example of the verb oublier (“to forget”):

Singular Plural
J’avais oublié – I had forgotten Nous avions oublié – we had forgotten
Tu avais oublié – you had forgotten Vous aviez oublié – you had forgotten
l/elle/on avait oublié – he/she/one had forgotten Ils/Elles avaient oublié – they had forgotten

J’avais oublié de te dire ! – “I had forgotten to tell you!”

Vous aviez crié. – “You had shouted.”

Elles avaient mangé. – “They had eaten.” (about a group of females)

The Avoir Conjugation in the Futur Simple

Another set of tenses that operate together are the simple tense futur simple and the compound tense futur antérieur.

Let’s have a look at the conjugation of avoir in the futur simple first:

Singular Plural
J’aurai – I will have Nous aurons – we will have
Tu auras – you will have Vous aurez – you will have
Il/elle/on aura – he/she/one will have Ils/Elles auront – they will have

Avoir envie de means “to want” (literally: “to have the desire to”):

Vous aurez envie de revenir. – “You’ll want to come back.”

Remember that in French we “have” our age:

Demain, j’aurai 20 ans. – “I’ll be 20 years old tomorrow.”

The Avoir Conjugation in the Futur Antérieur

Can you guess on the basis of the previous tenses how the forms of futur antérieur are created? You’ll need:

avoir/être in the futur simple + participe passé of the verb you want to use

Here’s an example of conjugation for the verb you know very well by now, avoir:

Singular Plural
J’aurai eu – I will have had Nous aurons eu – we will have had
Tu auras eu – you will have had Vous aurez eu – you will have had
Il/elle/on aura eu – he/she/one will have had Ils/Elles auront eu – they will have had

Vous aurez eu des réponses à la fin de l’année. – “You will have had answers by the end of the year.”

What’s the difference between this tense and the futur simple? Futur antérieur refers to actions that should be or will be completed by a certain time.

Have a look at two more examples:

Tu auras fini avant son arrivée. – “You will have finished before his arrival.”

Après-demain à cette heure-ci, il aura obtenu les résultats du bac. – “By this time the day after tomorrow, he will have obtained his baccalaureate exam results.”

The Avoir Conjugation in Subjonctif

So far I’ve mentioned the tenses in the indicative mood in French (l’indicatif) but the technique of pairing in the French conjugation works for le subjonctif (the subjunctive) too. In fact, it works for all four subjonctif moods:

  • subjonctif présent (present subjunctive) and subjonctif passé (past subjunctive)
  • subjonctif imparfait (imperfect subjunctive) and subjonctif plus-que-parfait (past perfect subjunctive)

For the purpose of this article, I’ll only discuss the first pair as it’s much more frequently used and more level appropriate.

The Avoir Conjugation in Subjonctif Présent

Here’s the avoir conjugation chart for the subjunctive mood, subjonctif présent:

Singular Plural
J’aie – I have Nous ayons – we have
Tu aies – you have Vous ayez – you have
Il/elle/on ait – he/she/one has Ils/Elles aient – they have

The subjunctive mood is used to express subjective or uncertain actions and ideas. Have a look at the following example:

Je veux que tu aies confiance en moi. – “I want you to trust me.”

We say je veux (“I want”), but do you know the rest of the vouloir conjugation (“to want”)? If not, check out this guide to the French verb vouloir. You can also learn about other verbs with the -oir ending in the comprehensive guide to the -oir verb conjugations.

There’s a number of expressions that require the use of subjonctif, such as il faut que (it’s necessary that/it must be that):

Il faut que nous ayons une vision. – “We must have a vision” (It’s necessary for us to have a vision.)”

Do you remember the expression avoir peur in French (“to be scared”) we discussed earlier? The derivative expression avoir peur que (“to be scared that”) requires subjonctif too:

J’ai peur que tu aies besoin de moi. – “I’m scared that you need me.”

(Avoir besoin de means “to need”.)

You can find more expressions that require the French subjunctive mood here.

The Avoir Conjugation in the Subjonctif Passé

As you’ve probably guessed, the right form of the avoir conjugation in the subjonctif présent is required when we want to use the subjonctif passé:

avoir/être in subjonctif présent + participe passé of the verb you need

Below you can find an example of this French conjugation for the verb voir (“to see”):

Singular Plural
J’aie vu – I’ve seen Nous ayons vu – we’ve seen
Tu aies vu – you’ve seen Vous ayez vu – you’ve seen
Il/elle/on ait vu – he/she/one
Ils/Elles aient vu – they’ve seen

Il est le plus bel homme que j’aie vu dans ma vie. – “He’s the most beautiful man I’ve seen in my life.”

Subjonctif is often used after the superlative adjective, meaning after the highest degree of an adjective such as “the most beautiful”.

Je ne pense pas que vous ayez compris. – “I don’t think you’ve understood.”

Je regrette qu’ils ayons perdu ce match. – “I’m sorry that they lost this match.”

Useful Phrases with Avoir

Knowing the French “to have” conjugation in different tenses is very useful, especially that there’s a number of handy phrases with avoir. I have sneaked in some of them into this article already. Here are some more that you should learn by heart:

  • avoir l’air de – “to seem, to appear”
    Il a l’air d’être parfait. – “He seems perfect.”
  • avoir sommeil – “to be sleepy”
    J’ai sommeil. – “I’m sleepy.”
  • avoir de la chance – “to be lucky”
    Nous avons eu de la chance. – “We were lucky.”
  • avoir froid and avoir chaud – “to be cold” and “to be hot”
    Vous n’avez pas froid/chaud? – “Are you not cold/hot?”
  • avoir faim and avoir soif – “to be hungry” and “to be thirsty”
    J’aurai faim/soif avant midi. – “I will be hungry/thirsty before noon.”

The Avoir Conjugation: Summary

You’ve learnt today how to conjugate avoir in different tenses and moods. Learning the forms in pairs makes the task much easier. Here’s a summary of the avoir conjugation with the verb donner (“to give”) for the compound tenses:

First person singular J’ai J’ai donné
Second person singular Tu avais Tu avais donné
Third person singular Elle aura Elle aura donné
First person plural Nous ayons Nous ayons donné

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of French sentences with conjugated forms of “avoir”.

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Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in French.

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