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 nécessaire 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
être censé2   to be meant / supposed to
être dans l’obligation de   to be under an obligation to
être de son devoir de3   to be one’s duty to
être forcé à   to have to
être obligé de   to have to, be obliged to
être 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 nécessaire 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 à moi de3   It falls to me to
mettre quelqu’un dans la nécessité 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 à    to require someone to
ordonner à quelqu’un de   to order someone to
se trouver obligé 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

Notes

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 censé 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
forcément   necessarily
impératif   imperative
impérativement   imperatively
indispensable   essential
nécessairement   necessarily
obligatoire   obligatory
requis   required
vraiment   truly

Miscellaneous Expressions

au besoin   in case of necessity
bon gré mal gré   whether you like it or not
bonnes pratiques   dos and don’ts
choses à faire et à ne pas faire   dos and don’ts
les désirs et les besoins   wants and needs
en cas de besoin   in case of necessity
manquer à ses engagements   to fail to meet one’s obligations
manquer à ses obligations   to fail to meet one’s obligations
ne t’en déplaise   whether you like it or not
un produit de première nécessité   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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