French teacher homeHome
individual French lessons, French lessons onlineFrench lessons
French teacher, French tutor, French learningTeachers profile
French students, French testimonialsTestimonials
French forum, French studentsFrench immersion
French forum, French studentsDiscussion Forum
Expats France, Expatriates France, British expats, British expatriatesExpats stories
French school, France, French lessonsAbout us
French cuisine, French cooking, French chef, French cooking lessons, Learn French cookingOur Magazine
French courses, French programme, French program, French in FranceContact us
French scenarios, vocabulary, audio e-bookOur bookshop
French language links, living France, British France, UK France, English France, French CDIn the Media
French resources, French books, French music, moving FranceResources
French language links, living France, British France, UK France, English France, French CDEmployment
France linksLinks
French language links, living France, British France, UK France, English France, French CDLearn Spanish
French Accent Magazine
Order a sample issue here
Learn french online, French courses, French classes, French school


Do I Have to? Or Should I?

French GrammarIl faut ! If you live or have travelled in France, you’ve probably heard these two short words over and over again. When do we use it exactly and how does the sentence construction work? We use il faut to express directions, orders and very strong suggestions. Il faut can be expressed in an impersonal or personal way. Instinctively, foreigners are likely to say “c’est nécessaire de”, each time they want to express “it’s necessary to”, but the French will almost always say “il faut”! Try to do the same…

There are two ways to use “il faut” – Impersonal and general or Personal and specific to the person you are talking to.

1) If you’re making it impersonal, then you don’t need to add a second clause with both a subject and a verb, but just a verb in its unconjugated infinitive form. The impersonal “It’s necessary to” in French is simply:
Il faut + verb in the infinitive form.

For giving directions: Il faut aller à gauche! = it’s necessary to go (turn to the) left!
For giving orders: Il faut arriver au travail tous les jours à 9 heures = it’s necessary to get to work everyday at 09:00!
For making strong suggestions: Il faut prendre son temps dans la vie… = It’s necessary to take one's time in life…

2) If you’re making it personal (which means adding que + a second clause with both a subject and a verb ), then it works like this:
Il faut que + subject + verb (in subjonctive form)

Personal using the above examples:
For giving directions: Il faut que vous alliez (subjonctif) à gauche = You must/have to go left.
For giving orders: Il faut que vous arriviez (subjonctif) au bureau tous les jours à 9 heures = You must/have to get to the office everyday at 09:00.
For making strong suggestions: Il faut que tu prennes (subjonctif) ton temps dans la vie…= You have to take your time in life…

Note: Il faut is the present conjugation of the verb falloir - it is a very unusual verb because you can only conjugate the verb with il!! You cannot say je faut, vous fallez, etc…

French Grammar
Do Not Miss Our New Audio Book
or e-book!

Travelling in France
Essential Communication for the Smart Tourist

Special Introductory Price - 15% Off

Click here for details and sample

When expressing obligations or directions, you can either use il faut or the verb devoir! In the second choice, the verb is conjugated as such: je dois, tu dois, il/elle doit, nous devons, vous devez, ils doivent. Devoir implies a stronger obligation – almost a moral imperative – than il faut.
Vous devez finir votre travail ce soir = You have to finish your work tonight (no choice).
Elle doit partir = She has to leave.

What about when you want to suggest? What would you say? This is where it can get confusing. As you know, Devoir means “must” or “have to” in the present tense, BUT when devoir is conjugated in the conditional (equivalent of “would” in English), then this verb changes its meaning and it becomes “should”! This is how it works when devoir is used in the conditional:
Je devrais, tu devrais, il devrait, nous devrions, vous devriez, ils devraient = I should, you should, etc..

Demain, je devrais aller chez le coiffeur, mes cheveux sont vraiment trop longs ! = Tomorrow I should go to the hairdresser, my hair is truly too long!
Vous devriez acheter une nouvelle bagnole, car celle-ci est vraiment moche ! = You ought to buy a new car, since this one is really ugly !

At this point it is no longer an obligation but something that should eventually be done.

Céline Anthonioz

French GrammarFrench Grammar

You will find many more grammar points in our
"Grammar French Basics" e-book

Click here for information and sample

Back to grammar

French Class | Learning French | French Lessons | French Course | Learn French by Skype | French Teacher