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Avoir du mal à meaning – To have difficulty doing in French

Avoir du mal à meaning – To have difficulty doing in French

Today we’ll focus on a simple yet extremely useful French expression: “avoir du mal à”, which means to have difficulty/trouble or to find it hard to do something.

avoir du mal à

to have difficulty doing something

Avoir du mal à meaning - To have difficulty doing in French

Avoir du mal à grammatical construction

This is how the the expression works: Conjugated form of avoir (to have) + du mal à + infinitive. For example, j’ai du mal à prononcer ce mot (I find it hard to pronounce this word).

Example sentences

This first example sentence makes use of reflexive verbs, which are “to myself verbs” in French. We cover reflexive verbs in detail in this lesson.

J’ai du mal à me lever tôt le matin parce que je me couche trop tard.

I have a hard time getting up early in the morning because I go to bed too late.

This second example makes reference to the French -r, which is very difficult for many students. This lesson from French Today skillfully guides you through the French -r pronunciation.

John a du mal à prononcer le “r” français. C’est trop difficile pour lui.

John struggles to pronounce the French -r. It’s too hard for him.

In this example sentence, the word aiguë (high) has a tréma (dieresis) accent, which we explain in this lesson. Normally, the rule for the dieresis is for the two side-by-side vowels to get pronounced. Here, however, aiguë is pronounced [ay-gu].

Sylvie a du mal à chanter la chanson parce que sa voix est trop aiguë.

Sylvie is having difficulty sining the song because her voice is too high.

Nous avons du mal à comprendre pourquoi vous arrivez toujours en retard.

We’re having a hard time understanding why you always arrive late.


Et voilà ! You now know how use use avoir du mal à in French. Now check our our lesson covering tant pis (oh well, too bad).

PIcture of girl singing
Sylvie a du mal à chanter la chanson = Sylvie is having difficulty sining the song

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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