"Avoir" is the French verb that means "to have". It is an irregular verb and one of the most frequently used in French, apart from the verbs "être" ("to be") and "faire" ("to do"). If you are just starting out with French, you should focus on memorizing the verb forms of the three most commonly used tenses: the present, the past imperfect, and the future.
Method 1 of 3: Conjugate the verb "avoir" in the present tense
Step 1. Use "j'ai" if you want to say "I have"
In the first person present tense, "avoir" is conjugated as "ai" (pronounced "ey"). Because it starts with a vowel, you must contract the pronoun "je" and the verb instead of saying them separately. Pronounce them as if they were one word.
In French, the verb "avoir" is used to say age. The literal translation would be the same as in Spanish, that you "have" a certain number of years. For example, "j'ai 22 ans" means "I am 22 years old."
Step 2. Use "your ace" to say "you have."
In situations where you would use the informal second person pronoun ("tu"), the verb "avoir" must be conjugated as "as", which is pronounced "a", since the "s" is silent unless that the word that follows begins with a vowel.
Step 3. Conjugate the verb "avoir" as "a" (also pronounced "a") in the third person
To say that someone or something "has" something, you must say "il a" ("he has") or "elle a" ("she has"). Do not forget that, in French, as in Spanish, objects have gender.
This conjugation is used for a common idiomatic expression in French, "il y a", which means "there is" (there is no change for plural objects). For example, you could say "il y a plein de poisson" or "there are many fish."
Step 4. Use "nous avons" if you want to say "we have"
In case you are going to talk about yourself and another person using the first person plural, you must conjugate the verb "avoir" as "avons" (AH-vons). Bring the verb and pronoun together by pronouncing them with a strong "Z" sound between them (nu ZA-vons).
Step 5. Conjugate the verb "avoir" as "avez" (pronounced AH-vey) to use the pronoun "vous"
The pronoun "vous" in French can be considered as the second person plural when addressing a group of people and also as the equivalent of "you" in Spanish.
- Therefore, "vous avez" can be translated either as "you have" or "you have" depending on the context.
- When pronouncing it, you must join the pronoun and the verb with a marked "Z" sound (vu ZAH-vey).
Step 6. Use "ils ont" or "elles ont" to say "they / they have"
If you want to refer to a group of people or objects, you must use the conjugation of "avoir" for the third person plural. As in Spanish, if you are referring to a mixed group, you should always use the masculine pronoun "ils".
You must pronounce them with the same "Z" sound as to pronounce "vous avez", taking care that, in this case, this sound does not look much like an "S", since, otherwise, "ils ont" ("they have") might sound more like "ils sont" ("they are") and this could cause confusion
Step 7. Learn idiomatic expressions in French that use the verb "avoir"
In colloquial French, you will find that a number of idioms and verb phrases are used quite frequently. For example, you can use "j'ai faim" to tell someone that you are hungry. The literal translation is the same as in Spanish ("I'm hungry").
You can also use "j'ai soif" ("I'm thirsty") or "j'ai chaud" ("I'm hot")
Step 8. Use the verb "avoir" to say that you want or need something
In French, the verbs "want" and "need" are not separated as they are in Spanish but rather a verb phrase is used that includes the correct conjugated form of the verb "avoir".
For example, if you want or need chocolate, you should say "j'ai besoin de chocolat" ("I need chocolate" or, literally, "I need chocolate") or "j'ai envie de chocolat" ("I want chocolate" or literally "I'm craving chocolate")
Method 2 of 3: Conjugate the verb "avoir" in the past imperfect
Step 1. Use "j'avais" (pronounced "zh'AH-vey") to say "I had."
In French, the past imperfect is the equivalent of the same tense in Spanish, so you must use "j'avais" to refer to something you had at some point in the past.
The verb "avoir" is conjugated the same for the second person singular pronoun, "tu". When pronouncing it, you should not put the pronoun and the verb together as you would for the pronoun of the first person singular
Step 2. Use "il avait" or "elle avait" to say "he had" or "she had"
If you want to talk about a third person or an object, you must conjugate the verb "avoir" in this way. This word is pronounced "AH-vey" but the "t" at the end is silent.
Step 3. Conjugate the verb "avoir" as "avions" for the first person plural
To mean that both you and someone else had something in the past together, you would say "nous avions" or "we had."
Step 4. Use "vous aviez" to say "you had"
Again, to address a group of people, you must use the second person plural pronoun, "vous." Likewise, this pronoun is also appropriate for more formal situations or to address an authority figure.
"Vous aviez" is pronounced "vu ZAH-vi-yey" and the pronoun and verb contract with a strong "Z" sound between them
Step 5. Use "ils avaient" or "elles avaient" to say "they / they had"
The verb "avoir" is conjugated as "avaient" (pronounced "AH-vey") to refer to a group that had something in the past.
- When pronouncing it, join the pronoun with the verb with a "Z" sound, taking care that it is a marked "Z" sound and is not going to be confused with an "S".
- Many conjugations of the verb "avoir" are pronounced the same (AH-vey), so you must pay close attention to the spelling when writing.
Method 3 of 3: Conjugate the verb "avoir" in the future
Step 1. Use "j'aurai" to say "I will have."
French does not use an auxiliary verb to form the basic future (unlike what happens in a language like English), so you must use this conjugation to refer to something that you will have at some point in the future.
"J'aurai" is pronounced "SHOJ-ey"
Step 2. Use "your auras" to say "you will have."
If you are going to address a person to say that they will have something in the future, you must conjugate the verb "avoir" as "aura" (pronounced OJ-a). Don't forget that the "s" at the end is silent.
Step 3. Use "il aura" or "elle aura" for the third person in the future
All objects have a gender, so you should use the appropriate one to refer to someone or something that will have something in the future.
For example, imagine that you are talking to a friend about a boat that you are going to buy. In French, boat is masculine ("le bateau"), so you must use "il aura" or "will" to refer to the characteristics that the boat will have. However, despite having used the masculine pronoun, the direct translation of that word in this context is not "he"
Step 4. Use "nous aurons" to say "we will have."
If you want to talk about what both you and someone else will have in the future, you must conjugate the verb "avoir" as "aurons". This conjugation is pronounced "OJ-on" and the "s" is silent.
For example, you can say "nous aurons le poisson" or "we will have the fish."
Step 5. Use "vous aurez" to address a group
In case you are going to address a group of people to tell them that they will have something one day, you should use the pronoun for the second person plural "vous", which is also appropriate to address someone in a formal way (such as a an authority figure).
Step 6. Use "ils auront" or "elles auront" to say "they / they will have"
If you are referring to a group of other people, you must use the pronoun that represents the gender of the entire group. If this is a mixed group, you must use "ils".
The conjugation "auront" is pronounced "OJ-on" and the "t" is silent
- The verb "avoir" is so irregular that, in essence, you must memorize the verb forms, so you must be patient and study using audio resources so that you can master the pronunciation.
- A good way to get used to seeing the conjugation of irregular verbs (like "avoir") in context is by reading stories in French. In this way, you can also familiarize yourself with the different spellings for conjugations that have the same pronunciation.