The French verb avoir is the equivalent of the English verb to have. One of the most important verbs in the French language, avoir is used constantly in both spoken and written French. Becoming familiar with avoir conjugation, in addition to the verb’s meaning and uses, is therefore a must for all French learners.
In this post we’ll start with a basic overview of the verb avoir, touching on its meanings and on its use as an auxiliary verb. Then we’ll get into our section on avoir conjugation, providing a full reference for this important verb.
Since this post is on avoir conjugation, we’ll include avoir conjugation tables for all the tenses. We’ll go through past, present, and future tenses as well as more complicated tenses such as the conditional, subjunctive, and every other tense in between.
For a wider view of French verbs, check out our big intro post on French conjugation. For now, let’s get started learning all about avoir in French!
Avior: To have
The verb avoir is used in the same way as the verb to have in English. It describes possession of an item or sometimes a state of being. Used on its own, its meaning is the same as in English whether used in the infinitive form, as in the following examples, or with the different conjugations of avoir, as we’ll see in subsequent sections.
- Je veux avoir des enfants. – I want to have children.
- Est-ce que je peux avoir une salade ? – Can I have a salad?
- Ils aiment avoir plusieurs fromages à offrir. – They like to have multiple cheeses to offer.
Avoir: Auxiliary verb
The verb avoir is used as an auxiliary verb in French, playing a support role to other verbs when conjugated in compound tenses. The verb to have is used in a similar way in English, mainly to place sentences in some version of the past tense:
- I have eaten already.
- If they win today, France will have made it to the World Cup final more than three times.
The most common verb tense where we see avoir as an auxiliary verb is the passé composé:
- Le garçon a mangé son sandwich. – The boy has eaten his sandwich.
- J’ai travaillé chaque jour cette semaine. – I have worked every day this week.
Keep in mind that when we use avoir as an auxiliary verb in French, the possible translations into English don’t always necessarily include any version of the English verb to have. Check out these three English translations to see what we mean:
- Nous avons voyagé en France. – We have traveled in France. – We traveled in France. We did travel in France.
Être: The other French auxiliary verb
Whereas in English to have is the only auxiliary verb used to form compound conjugations, in French avoir is only one of two possible auxiliary verbs (albeit the most common one).
For compound tenses of reflexive verbs and verbs of movement, the auxiliary verb is être. For more on this verb, check out our dedicated post on être conjugation, or our big overview post on French verb conjugation.
Avoir conjugation: Introduction
Now that we’ve gone over the basic meanings of avoir, as well as its pivotal role as an auxiliary verb, we’re ready to start introducing the various avoir conjugation charts.
Avoir is an irregular French verb. What this means is that when we start from its infinitive form avoir, many of the tenses don’t follow all of the standard conjugation rules. Learning all the forms of avoir in each verb tense therefore presents a unique challenge!
The importance of knowing the conjugations of avoir in the French language can’t be understated though. You’ll just need to memorize each tense’s conjugations one by one.
We’ll start with avoir in the present tense, since it’s the most important one. We’ve then included all the other tenses, so if you’re looking for one in particular you can just scroll down and find whichever avoir conjugation table you need. Now let’s dive in!
Avoir conjugation: Present tense
The simple present tense is the most important in the language, so it’s vital to have this one down as soon as you start learning French. We include all the English translations in this first table for reference, even though most of the English conjugations are identical.
|tu as||you have|
|il/elle a||he/she has|
|nous avons||we have|
|vous avez||you have|
|ils/elles ont||they have|
Avoir Conjugation: Past tenses
In this section we present avoir conjugation tables in five different past tenses. The first three are common verb tenses: passé composé, imparfait, and plus-que-parfait. The last two are literary tenses seen mostly in written French that we’re including here for completeness: passé simple and passé antérieur.
In the passé composé, the verb avoir is used twice. First as an auxiliary verb and then as the past participle, eu.
- J’ai eu un accident. – I have had an accident.
Avoir Conjugation: Future tenses
The futur simple tense of avoir in French is equivalent to the English will have. The futur antérieur is used to express a future action that will be completed before another future action, so for the verb avoir, the futur antérieur means will have had.
The futur simple is quite common in everyday speech, whereas the futur antérieur is more complex and only really gets used when explaining events across a more complicated timeframe.
Avoir Conjugation: Conditional tenses
When we conjugate avoir in the conditional tenses, we’re expressing would have or would have had in French.
Avoir Conjugation: Subjunctive
The subjunctive isn’t very commonly used in English, and doesn’t stand out much even where it exists. It’s quite common in French though, particularly the subjonctif présent tense. Similarly to the other past tenses we saw above, the subjonctif imparfait and the subjonctif plus-que-parfait tenses are essentially only seen in literature.
In French the subjunctive is generally used with certain expressions, mostly in dependent clauses, to express uncertainty by the speaker. Expressions of judgment, possibility, necessity, as well as desire and doubt often require use of the subjunctive. In most instances, the verb in subjunctive is preceded by the word que.
Here’s an example sentence with avoir conjugated both in présent indicatif and in présent subjonctif, where the subjunctive conjugation is used when expressing doubt:
- Le garçon a un ballon, mais je doute que le garçon ait mon ballon. – The boy has a ball, but I doubt the boy has my ball.
Avoir Conjugation: Impératif
The imperative tense is used to give commands. The conjugations are the same as the subjunctive tense because when we give commands, we are expressing a desire or wish for the command to be followed.
- Aie un peu de patience – Have a little patience.
The present participle of avoir is generally translated as having.
- Ayant une allergie, la fille est très sensible aux chats. – Having an allergy, the girl is very sensitive to cats.
The past participle of avoir in English is had. We’ve already seen this past participle in the compound tenses throughout this post.
- Tu as eu ta dernière chance. – You have had your last chance.
The perfect participle of avoir is translated as having had.
- Ayant eu son dernier café, il est parti prendre le bus. – Having had his last coffee, He left to take the bus.
|le participe présent||ayant|
|le participe passé||eu|
|le participe composé||ayant eu|
Avoir: Past infinitive
The past infinitive of avoir is to have had.
- J’aurais aimé avoir eu une autre chance. – I would have liked to have had another chance.
|infinitif passé||avoir eu|
Avoir is such a fundamental verb in the French language that it’s important to learn its many different conjugations. Since it’s an irregular verb, many forms of avoir don’t follow the usual conjugation rules. However, since it’s so commonly used in French, if you spend much time with the language you’ll observe its variations often enough to start integrating them into your own conversations.
We hope you appreciated this post on avoir conjugation, and that its various tenses will make their way into your spoken and written French!