French Grammar: Expressing Necessity and Obligation with DEVOIR

French Grammar: Expressing Necessity and Obligation with DEVOIR

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French Grammar: Expressing Necessity and Obligation with DEVOIR
la grammaire française: la nécessité et l’obligation avec DEVOIR

There are many words and phrases in French that express necessity and obligation.  One of the most common ways to express this is by using the verb DEVOIR.

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There are many words and phrases in French that express necessity and obligation.  One of the most common ways to express this is by using the verb DEVOIR.

The French verb DEVOIR means must / to have to / to be supposed to. It’s somewhat stronger than AVOIR BESOIN DE (to have to), but not as strong as IL FAUT (to be necessary).

DEVOIR is an irregular verb.

DEVOIR : must / to have to / to be supposed to

je DOIS : I must / I have to / I am supposed to

tu DOIS : you must / you have to / you are supposed to (informal)

il DOIT : he must / he has to / he is supposed to

elle DOIT : she must / she has to / she is supposed to

on DOIT : one must / one has to / one is supposed to

nous DEVONS : we must / we have to / we are supposed to

vous DEVEZ : you must / you have to / you are supposed to (formal / plural)

ils DOIVENT : they must / they have to / they are supposed to (masculine)

elles DOIVENT : they must / they have to / they are supposed to (feminine)

To express that someone must / has to / is supposed to do something, use an infinitive verb after DEVOIR.

Examples:

Je dois travailler.
I must work. / I have to work. / I am supposed to work.

Il doit manger bien.
He must eat well. / He has to eat well. / He is supposed to work.


DEVOIR
can also mean to owe.  When used in this sense, DEVOIR is followed by a noun.

Examples:

Ils doivent dix dollars.
They (masculine) owe ten dollars.

Nous ne leur devons rien.
We don’t owe them anything.

NOTE: LES DEVOIRS means homework.  Why?  Because homework is something you must / have to / are supposed to do!

Adapt:

Qu’est-ce que nous devons faire?
What are we supposed to do?

Nous devons étudier.
We are supposed to study.

Nous devons étudier pour combien de temps?
For how long do we have to study?

Nous devons étudier pour deux heures.
We have to study for two hours.

Je vous dois quelque chose?
Do I owe you all anything?

Oui, tu nous dois trente dollars.
Yes, you (informal) owe us thirty dollars.

Elle doit faire les devoirs!
She must do the homework!

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