Expressing necessity and obligation in French

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Expressing necessity and obligation

The following expressions are used to express necessity and obligation in French:

•  Il faut - You / we need
Il faut appeler la police ! You need to call the police!
Il faut que nous allions au commissariat de police. We need to go to the police station.
•  Devoir - To have to
Je dois ranger ma chambre. I have to tidy my bedroom.
Nous devons faire attention. We must pay attention.
•  Avoir besoin - To need
M. Therrien a besoin de ce rapport très rapidement ! Mr. Therrien needs this report very soon!
J’ai besoin que vous m’écoutiez attentivement. I need you to listen to me closely.
•  Il est nécessaire - It is necessary
Il est nécessaire que Victor aille chez le coiffeur. Victor needs to go to the hairdresser (It is necessary that...)
Important: To express necessity in French, you can’t translate ‘I have to’ using avoir (j’ai que).
I have to go to work.
Il faut que j’aille au travail.
We have to clean the house.
Il faut nettoyer la maison or Il est nécessaire que nous nettoyions la maison.
Note: Some of these expressions are followed by the infinitive or the subjunctive tense.
With an infinitive verb:
Pour être en forme, il faut faire du sport et boire de l’eau.
To stay in shape, you need to play sports and drink water.
With a verb in the subjunctive:
Pour être en forme, il faut que tu fasses du sport et que tu boives de l’eau.
To stay in shape, you need to play sports and drink water.

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