Être and avoir

26 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

Être and avoir are the verbs that are most used in the French language.  Both are irregular and turn up in many different forms. It is hardly surprising, then, that anyone learning French has a tough time learning how to use them correctly.

Take the following example:

J’ai trente ans
In Dutch (and English) you say that you are 30 years old. So it would seem logical to translate it into French as: Je suis trente ans. But that’s not correct; you say: J’ai trente ans (I have 30 years). The underlying reason for this is that age is neither a state nor a characteristic. What the French actually say is that you have left that number of years behind you.

More examples

  • J’ai peur de l’orage. / I am frightened of thunder.
  • J’ai sommeil. / I am sleepy.
  • Ils ont conscience de leur position. / They are aware of their situation.

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