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Devoir Conjugation: How To Conjugate Must, Have To In French

Devoir Conjugation: How To Conjugate Must, Have To In French

In French, the verb devoir translates to must, have to and need to. The conjugation of devoir in the present tense is: je dois (I must), tu dois (you must), il/elle doit (he/she must), nous devons (we must) vous devez (you must, formal and plural) and ils/elles doivent (they most). This post provide conjugation charts of devoir in five major tenses.

Devoir (must, to have to) conjugated in the present tense

Uses of devoir

Devoir is one of the most useful verbs in the French language. In addition to must, have to and need to, it has several other common usages.

1. Must/have to/need to

When followed by an infinitive, devoir means must, have to and to need to. For example:

  • Je dois travailler demain. I have to work tomorrow.
  • Vous devez écouter le professeur. You must listen to the teacher.
  • Il doit acheter une nouvelle voiture. He needs to buy a new car.

2. Supposed to

The verb devoir can also suggest probability and means “supposed to”. For example:

  • Le train doit arriver avant midi. The train is supposed to arrive before noon.

3. To owe

The verb devoir can also mean “to owe”. For example:

  • Il me doit vingt euros. He owes me twenty euros.

4. Should, ought to

In the conditional form, devoir translates to “should” or “ought to”. For example:

  • Vous devriez étudier le français. You should (ought to) study French.

Devoir conjugation tables

Before we get into the tables with example sentences, let’s have a quick look at the conjugations of devoir in six major tenses.

Devoir conjugation table

Devoir conjugation tables with example sentences

In the following section we’ll cover the verb devoir in five main tenses including the present, imperfect, passé composé, future and conditional tenses.

Present tense

In the present tense, je dois translates to I must, have to and need to.

Je doisI must/have toJe dois travailler demain.I have to work tomorrow
Tu doisYou must/has to (singular, informal)Tu dois acheter la voiture. You must buy the car.
Il/elle doitHe/she must/has toIl doit vendre la masion.He has to sell the house.
Nous devonsWe must/have toNous devons rester ici.We have to stay here.
Vous devezYou must/have to (formal, plural)Vous devez payer l'addition.You have to pay the bill.
Ils/elles doiventThey must/have toIls doivent trouver une solutionThey must find a solution.

Passé composé

The passé composé is a commonly used French past tense. The construction J’ai dû + infinitive translates to “I had to” and is used for recounting past events.

J'ai dûI had toJ'ai dû poser la quesiton. I had to ask the question.
Tu as dûYou had to (informal singular)Tu as dû nettoyer la cusine.You had to clean the kitchen.
Il/elle a dûHe/she had toIl a dû apprendre le chinois.He had to learn Chinese.
Nous avons dûWe had to Nous avons dû finir la leçon.We had to finish the lesson.
Vous avez dûYou had to (plural, formal)Vous avez dû partir.You had to leave.
Ils/elles ont dûThey had toIls ont dû acheter une télévison.They had to buy a TV.

Imperfect

The imperfect (or imparfait) is an other commonly used French past tense. Je devais + infinitive also means “I had to” and is used for describing past situations.

Je devaisI had to Je devais me renseigner. I had to get information.
Tu devaisYou had to (singular, informal)Tu devais partir avant nous.You had to leave before us.
Il/elle devaitHe/she had toElle devait déménager.She had to move out.
Nous devionsWe had toNous devions trouver un nouvel appartement.We had to find a new apartment.
Vous deviezYou had to (plural, formal)Vous deviez suivre des cours.You had to take lessons.
Ils/elles devaientThey had toIls devaient descendre la montagne.They had to do down the mountain.

Future

In the futur simple, a commonly used French future tense, je devrai + infinitive translates to “I will have to”.

Je devraiI will have toJe devrai faire la cuisine.I will have to cook.
Tu devrasYou will have to (informal, singular)Tu devras aller chez le coiffeur.You will have to go to the hairdresser.
Il/elle devraHe/she will have toElle devra parler au patron.She will have to talk to the boss.
Nous devronsWe will have toNous devrons aller au magasin.We will have to go to the store.
Vous devrezYou will have to (formal, plural)Vous devrez me téléphoner.You will have to call me.
Ils/elles devrontThey will have toIls devront apprendre quelques mots.They will have to learn a few words.

Conditional

In French, the conditional tense is used to hypothetical “should” situations. Je devrais + infinitive translates to “I should”.

Je devraisI shouldJe devrais être plus gentil.I should be kinder.
Tu devraisYou should (informal, singular)Tu devrais travailler plus souvent.You should work more often.
Il/elle devraitHe/she shouldElle devrait apprendre les verbes.She should learn the verbs.
Nous devrionsWe shouldNous devrions partir avant midi.We should leave before noon.
Vous devriezYou should (formal, plural)Vous devriez apprendre le français.You should learn French.
Ils/elles devraientThey shouldIls devraient partir de bonne heure.They should leave early.

More conjugation charts with example sentences:

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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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