Practicing the verb ‘avoir’ and French numbers with 50 example sentences from French news sites.

Like all WordBrewery beginner sentences, each sentence contains exclusively the 500 most common words in French plus proper nouns.

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The verb ‘avoir,’ which means ‘to have,’ is (along with être, to be) one of the two most common and important verbs in French. Like many high-frequency verbs, it is irregular, so its different forms must be memorized. This is typically done with worksheets, flashcards, and conjugation tables, but rote memorization is an inefficient way to learn. There is a better way: study real, relevant example sentences written by native speakers for other native speakers in recent news articles.

Skip to the example sentences

To help beginning French learners get a handle on avoir, I used WordBrewery’s automatic sentence list creator to find fifty real example sentences from French-language news sources that use avoir in different forms. Most or all of these sentences are from the beginner-level French sentences in WordBrewery’s database; this means, among other things, that they contain only the 500 most important high-frequency French words as well as proper nouns. They are also short and easy to memorize.

  • PDF of example sentences: WordBrewery recently introduced a new feature allowing learners to print their sentence lists. Here is a free PDF of the sentences paired with two rough translations per sentence.

Note on translations: Before relying on full-sentence translations, we recommend that you try to puzzle through the meaning of the sentence on your own. Also, keep in mind that machine translation is a very imperfect science; be sure to focus on the native sentence rather than the translations, and do not see the translations as “correct answers.”

  • Audio of example sentences: WordBrewery is currently testing and preparing to release a feature for learners to automatically generate audio files for any sentence list so they can practice their sentences while walking or driving. Here is a free audio file in which the sentences are read aloud. Our French sentences are read by one of several text-to-speech voices from IBM Watson.

  • CSV export of example sentences: WordBrewery users can export their word and sentence lists as CSV (comma-separated value) text files. These can be opened by a spreadsheet program or text editor, and they can be imported into flashcard programs such as Anki, Memrise, Quizlet, and others. Here is a CSV file with the sentences in this list.

  • Reviewing your lists with WordBrewery’s Explore Mode: You can also study sentences from your lists with WordBrewery’s Explore Mode by changing the default “Study by Levels” setting to “Study by Lists.” Here’s an example of what this looks like with one of the sentences in this list: You can use WordBrewery’s “study from lists” option in Explore Mode to review the sentences in your sentence lists. You can use WordBrewery’s “study from lists” option in Explore Mode to review the sentences in your sentence lists.

A selection of example sentences containing avoir, plus notes and conjugation tables

See the PDF printout for the full list as well as translations.

Note: Because WordBrewery’s automatic list feature selected these sentences at random from our database of beginning French sentences, not every form of the verb avoir is represented. However, not all of a verb’s forms are equally likely to appear in native-language speech or texts. This important fact is disguised by daunting, comprehensive conjugation tables, and it should provide learners with some reassurance about the task of mastering a particular verb.

Conjugating avoir in the present tense:

j’ai I have
tu as you have (familiar)
il/elle/on a he/she/it/one has, there is
nous avons we have
vous avez you (formal or plural) have
ils/elles ont they have

Vous l’avez fait !

  • le = “it” (object pronoun)
  • faire = “to do”; avoir + faire = “to have done”
  • je l’ai fait = “I did it”
  • tu l’as fait = “you did it”
  • il l’a fait = “he/she/it did it”
  • nous l’avons fait = “we did it”
  • vous l’avez fait = “you did it (vous = plural or formal tu)”
  • ils l’ont fait = “they did it”

Il ne l’a pas été.

  • Grammar note: The patterns used in this sentence are critical and very common, but they can be maddening for beginning French users to understand. The best way is to master it is to study many example sentences. Let’s break this sentence down:

  • ne . . . pas = “not”
  • être = “to be”; avoir + être = “to have been”
  • il a = “he/she/it has”
  • il a êtê = “he/she/it was”
  • il n’a pas êtê = “he/she/it was not”

Here is the French news article about soccer in which this sentence originally appeared.

Qui a fait ça?

  • ça = “it”

Ça non plus j’ai pas pu.

  • Grammar note: This sentence is tricky because it is informal, uses abbreviated forms, and changes the usual word order.
  • non plus = “no more”
  • j’ai pas = casual form of je n’ai pas = “I didn’t”
  • pouvoir = to be able to; je n’ai pas pu = I could not

On les a tous eus !

On y a cru.

  • croire = “to believe”
  • avoir cru = “to have believed”
  • y = “it; there”

Grammar note: y replaces à + an object. Here, it is best translated as “it” and refers to what the subject (on) believed.

Il y a cela.

  • il y a = “there is”. This is one of the most common and useful expressions in French. You should memorize it.
  • cela = this, it

Grammar note: This sentence is informal, as it omits the ne. The negative is implied by the word pas.

J’ai dit non !

  • dire = to say; avoir dit = “to have said”

Il a rien fait!

  • rien = “nothing”

Grammar note: This sentence is informal, as it omits the ne. The negative is implied by the word rien.

Il ne l’a pas fait.

Il n’y a pas à dire.

Grammar note: Dire (“to say”) is in the infinitive form in this sentence, so it literally means “to say.” This sentence could be translated as “There is nothing to say.”

On en a tous.

  • en = “of (them/something)”.
  • tous = “all”
  • on a tous = “we have (them) all”; - on en a tous = “we have all of them”

Grammar note: En is a pronoun that replaces de + an object, where the object is a thing. Here, en is used with an expression of quantity (tous). The next few sentences also provide examples of en.

Il n’y a rien à en dire!

Grammar note: Here, en is best translated as “about it.”

Il ne l’a pas dit.

Grammar note: In this sentence l’ is an abbreviation of either le or la, the object pronoun representing what the speaker is talking about (i.e., what “he did not say”).

Conjugating avoir in the imperfect tense:

j’avais I had
tu avais you had
il/elle/on avait he/she/it/one had, there was
nous avoins we had
vous aviez you had
ils/elles avaient they had

Il avait 41 ans.

Grammar note: The imperfect tense is used to describe a continuous state in the past (as opposed to a discrete state in the past, which is represented with the passé simple). This sentence is a good example of this principle. The subject of the sentence (il) was 41 years old; this was an ongoing state (lasting up to one year) rather than a discrete event that happened and was completed.

Je vous l’avais dit !

Grammar note: In this sentence, avoir is in the imperfect tense, but dire is in the simple past (passé simple) tense. When these two forms are combined, the resulting compound verb—j’avais dit (lit. “I had told you”)—is in the plus-que-parfait (more-than-perfect) tense.

Conjugating avoir in the future tense:

j’aurai I had
tu auras you had
il/elle/on aura he/she/it/one had, there was
nous aurons we had
vous aurez you had
ils/elles auront they had

Il y en aura plus.

Additional reading:

  •, Conjugations - conjugations of the three most common and important French verbs: