Obligation and Necessity

Expressing Obligation and Necessity

Obligation and necessity in French
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

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

 Related features

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Expressing obligations in French

Stay up to date with Lawless French

Questions about French?

 Visit the Progress with Lawless French Q+A forum to get help from native French speakers and fellow learners.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Leave a Reply