Obligation and Necessity

Expressing Obligation and Necessity

Obligation and necessity in French
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When you have to do something, you require certain verbs and formulas. Here’s the French vocabulary and verbs you need to express obligation and necessity.

Verbs and Expressions + Subjunctive

avoir besoin que to need (s.o to do s.t)
demander que to ask that
exiger que to insist that
falloir que to be necessary that
Il est indispensable que It’s essential that
Il est n√©cessaire que It’s necessary that
Il est obligatoire que It’s mandatory that
Il faut que It’s necessary that
ordonner que to order that

Verbs and Expressions + Infinitive

avoir besoin de to need
avoir le devoir de1 to have the duty of
avoir le triste devoir de1 to have the sad duty of, to regret (that one has) to
devoir2 must, to have to, to be supposed to
√™tre cens√©2 to be meant / supposed to
√™tre dans l’obligation de to be under an obligation to
√™tre de son devoir de3 to be one’s duty to
√™tre forc√© √† to have to
√™tre oblig√© de to have to, be obliged to
√™tre tenu de to be under an obligation to
exiger de to insist on
falloir2 to be necessary to
Il est indispensable de It’s indispensable to
Il est n√©cessaire de It’s necessary to
Il est obligatoire de It’s mandatory to
Il me faut2, 3 I need to
Il m’incombe de1, 3 It falls to me to
Il revient √† moi de3 It falls to me to
mettre quelqu’un dans la n√©cessit√© de to compel someone to
mettre quelqu’un dans l’obligation de to put ssomeone under an obligation to
ne pas pouvoir faire autrement que de to have no choice but to
obliger quelqu’un √†¬† to require someone to
ordonner √† quelqu’un de to order someone to
se trouver oblig√© de to have to, be obliged to
se voir contraint de1 to be compelled to
se voir dans l’obligation de1 to be obliged to


1 These expressions are very formal and are generally restricted to written French.

2 Note that these are not followed by a preposition in French.

Par exemple…

Tu dois manger quelque chose. You have to eat something.
Je suis cens√© partir demain.  I’m supposed to leave tomorrow.

3 The possessive adjective, indirect object, and stressed pronoun in these phrases can of course be changed for other people.

Par exemple…

Il est de mon devoir de … It’s my duty to …
Il vous faut … You need to …

Adjectives and Adverbs

absolument absolutely, really
essentiel essential
forc√©ment necessarily
imp√©ratif imperative
imp√©rativement imperatively
indispensable essential
n√©cessairement necessarily
obligatoire obligatory
requis required
vraiment truly

Miscellaneous Expressions

au besoin in case of necessity
bon gr√© mal gr√© whether you like it or not
bonnes pratiques dos and don’ts
choses √† faire et √† ne pas faire dos and don’ts
les d√©sirs et les besoins wants and needs
en cas de besoin in case of necessity
manquer √† ses engagements to fail to meet one’s obligations
manquer √† ses obligations to fail to meet one’s obligations
ne t’en d√©plaise whether you like it or not
un produit de premi√®re n√©cessit√© basic necessity
respecter ses engagements to meet one’s obligations
respecter ses obligations to meet one’s obligations
sans engagement(advertising) without obligation

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Expressing obligations in French

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