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Il Faut – To be necessary

Il Faut – To be necessary

The French expression il faut can cause a lot of frustration among beginner students. This expression is frequently used and can translate to: To be necessary, needed and to have to. This post explains precisely how to use il faut and provides example sentences with audio.

Il faut

Meaning of il faut – uses and examples

1) Il faut + infinitive

This translates roughly to “it’s necessary”, “you have to’ or “one has to”.

  • Il faut travailler pour réussir dans la vie! You have to work to succeed in life.

2) Il faut que + subjunctive

Il faut que is an impersonal expression which requires the use of the subjunctive. It translates loosely to one must, it’s necessary to or you have to.

While the previous “Il faut + infinitive” is used for expressing ideas in a general sense, “Il faut que + subjunctive” is directed at a specific person.

  • Il faut que tu fasses attention. You need to pay attention.
Il faut example

3) Il faut quelque chose à quelqu’un

The structure, “il faut quelque chose à quelqu’un” is very similar toavoir besoin de, which means to need. The word or grammatical particle replacing “à quelqu’un” is the indirect object.

For example. “Il faut une voiture à Pierre” would become “Il lui faut une voiture”, or “He needs a car”. This lesson covers indirect object pronouns.

  • Il me faut une fourchette pour manger le steak. I need a fork to eat the steak.

Different tenses for il faut

In addition to the above three usages, il faut can also be used in other tenses than the present tense.

Future tense

In the futur simple, il faut becomes il faudra.

  • Il faudra que tu travailles demain. You’ll have to work tomorrow.

Near future tense

The futur proche (near future tense) is formed with “aller + infinitive”. In the instance of “il faut”, the infinitive is falloir, which means to be necessary.

  • Il va falloir que tu fasses quelque chose. You’re doing to have to do something.

Passé composé

In the passé composé, “il faut” becomes “il a fallu”, which translates to “it was necessary to”.

  • Il a fallu acheter la voiture. It was necessary to buy the car.
Il faut example


Il faut can also be used in the imperfect tense. In this form, “il faut” appears as “il fallait”.

  • Il fallait dire queque chose. It was necessary to say something.

Past conditional

In the past conditional “il faut” becomes “il aurait fallu”, meaning it would have been necessary.

  • Il aurait fallu acheter la maison l’année dernière. It would have been necessary to buy the house last year.

Expression: Comme il faut

Comme il faut is a commonly used French expression. Translations to comme il faut include properly correctly. Another translation is “as one should”. For example:

  • Habillez-vous comme il faut ! Dress properly!
  • Prononce le mot comme il faut ! Pronounce the word correclty!

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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 FrenchLearner, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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