Expressing desire, ability, necessity and obligation in French

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Expressing desire, ability, necessity and obligation

Here are the main verbs which express:

•  desire (la volonté) : vouloir vouloir, présent
Muriel veut manger un croissant. Muriel wants to eat a croissant.
Je voudrais du pain, s’il vous plaît. vouloir, conditionnel présent I would like some bread, please.
•  ability (la capacité): pouvoir pouvoir, présent
Marcel peut compter jusqu’à 10. Marcel can count up to 10.
Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît ? Can you say that again, please?
•  need and necessity (la nécessité): avoir besoin de avoir, présent
Victor, la France a besoin de toi ! Victor, France needs you!
Hier matin, j’avais besoin de courir. avoir, imparfait
•  obligation (l’obligation): devoir devoir, présent and falloir (il faut)
Gérard Therrien doit payer ses impôts. Gérard Therrien has to pay his taxes.
Il faut que Gérard Therrien paie ses impôts. Gérard Therrien has to pay his taxes.
Note :
•  The verbs vouloir, pouvoir et devoir are often followed directly by an infinitive.
Je veux dormir. I want to sleep.
Il peut travailler. He can work.
•  After il faut que, we use the subjunctive tense:
Il faut que tu viennes tout de suite ! You need to come immediately! (literally, ‘it is necessary that you come immediately’)

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