Classic Avoir Expressions

Let’s get things started with the classics. If you’ve already been learning French for a while, these are probably the avoir expressions that introduced you to the idea in the first place. They’re a great way to get to understanding the expressions and how they work.

Let’s start with one of the most common, avoir faimLiterally translated, it means “to have hunger,” but in French it’s used as an equivalent of “to be hungry.”

The same is true for a few other basic expressions. Here they are with their literal translations followed by their true translations:

Avoir faim — to have hunger (to be hungry)
Avoir soif — to have thirst (to be thirsty)
Avoir sommeil to have sleepiness (to be sleepy)
Avoir de la chance to have luck (to be lucky)
Avoir chaud — to have heat (to be hot)
Avoir froid — to have cold (to be cold)
Avoir mal to have pain (to be in pain)
Avoir tort — to have wrong (to be wrong)
Avoir raison to have right (to be right)
Avoir du retard — to have lateness (to be late)


Avoir Expressions with Feelings

Avoir expressions are very often used to express different feelings. Again, instead of using “to be scared” or “to be ashamed,” in French, you’ll be using avoir.

Avoir peur de to have fear of (to be scared of)
Avoir confiance en to have trust or faith in (to believe in)
Avoir honte to have shame (to be ashamed)
Avoir horreur de — to have horror of (to hate)

Some of these expressions are fairly easy to calque onto your English, for example, avoir peur deBut the three others are used far more commonly in French than as their English equivalents. J’ai confiance en toifor example, is a common way of building up your friends, kind of the way we say, “I know you can do it!”

J’ai hontemeanwhile, is commonly used where in English we’d say, “I’m so embarrassed!”


Avoir Expressions That’ll Make Your French Flow Better

Once you’ve mastered the first two groups of avoir expressions, you might be on the lookout for some other ones to add. These expressions are sure to help your French flow even better and will make you sound even more fluent.

Avoir envie (de) — to have want of (to want)
Avoir besoin (de) — to have need of (to need)
Avoir xx ans to have xx years (to be xx years old)
Avoir à xx to have to xx
Avoir l’air de to have the air of (to seem)
Avoir l’intention de to have the intention to
Avoir l’habitude de to have the habit of

Most of these expressions calque very easily onto your regular use of English, so they won’t be too hard to add to your vocabulary. The trick here is getting into the habit of using them instead of using direct English translations for the concepts you’re trying to express. For example, saying J’ai envie d’un café (I want a coffee) is more common than saying Je veux un caféand saying Tu sembles être is a bit clunkier than saying T’as l’air de (You seem).


Slang Avoir Expressions

Why is it that, no matter how much we learn in a foreign language, one of the things we always want to learn are slang expressions? Probably because they’re so fun to say and use! These expressions in particular don’t always mean what you think they will when you translate them directly—some of them are a little bit odd!

Here are some great slang expressions to get you using avoir expressions even more often in your daily French conversation.

Avoir la flemme — to have the phlegm (to be lazy)
Avoir la pêche — to have the peach (to feel great or in top form)
Avoir la trouille to have the privet (to be scared)
Avoir du chien — to have dog (to be charming) (for a woman)
Avoir du pot — to have pot (to be lucky)
Avoir le cafard — to have the cockroach (to be depressed or out of sorts)

These expressions aren’t necessarily vulgar, but they’re definitely slang. You’ll want to be careful not to use them in situations like work or with people you don’t know very well, but definitely try using them out on your French friends and witness how surprised they are by your linguistic prowess.