Falloir - il faut
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Necessary French Verb

The irregular French verb falloir means "to need," "to be necessary," or "to be lacking."

Since falloir is an impersonal verb, it has only one conjugation in each tense and mood: the third person singular, which may be followed by an infinitive, the subjunctive, or a noun.

Falloir + infinitive

Il faut faire attention !   You must pay attention!
Il faut vendre la voiture.   We/You need to sell the car.
Il faut commencer.   It’s necessary to start,
We/You need to start.

To specify that a particular person needs to do something, use an indirect object pronoun.*

Il nous faut vendre la voiture.
Il te/vous faut vendre la voiture.
Il me faut vendre la voiture.
  We need to sell the car.
You need to sell the car.
I need to sell the car.
Il nous faut commencer.
Il te/vous faut commencer.
Il me faut commencer.
  We need to start.
You need to start.
I need to start.

* Or use the subjunctive instead:

Falloir + subjunctive

Note that the English infinitive is the most idiomatic equivalent to the subjunctive in this construction.

Il faut que je vende ma voiture.   I have to sell my car, "It is necessary that I sell my car."
Il faut que nous commencions.   We need to start.
Il fallait que Bernard parte sans toi.   Bernard needed to leave without you.

Falloir + noun

Il faut un visa pour voyager dans certains pays.   You/One needs a visa to travel to certain countries.
Voici le livre qu’il te faut.   Here’s the book you need.
Il me faudrait un assistant pour finir ce travail.   I’d need an assistant to finish this work.

Synonyms for falloir

avoir besoin de   to need
devoir   to have to, must  (what’s the difference?)
il est essentiel   it is essential
il est nécessaire   it is necessary

Expressions with falloir

ce qu’il faut   what is needed, what it takes
comme il faut   properly, respectably
Faudrait voir à voir (informal)   Come on! Come off it!
Il a bien fallu !   I/We/They had to!
Il fallait me le dire.   You should have told me
Il faut ce qu’il faut (informal)   You’ve got to do things right
s’il le faut   if (it’s) necessary

More expressions with falloir

S’en falloir de

This impersonal pronominal expression means "to be missing/short of" and is always followed by an amount, whether in the form of a noun or an expression of quantity. This indicates what prevented the action, expressed in a separate clause, from happening. The adverbial pronoun en, though required, doesn’t really mean anything here.

Je n’ai pas pu acheter la chemise, il s’en fallait de 5 euros.   I couldn’t buy the shirt (because) I was 5 euros short.
Elle n’a pas réussi à l’examen, il s’en est fallu de beaucoup.   She didn’t pass the test, didn’t even come close.

Synonyms for s’en falloir de

faire défaut   to be lacking
manquer   to lack, be missing

 Related lessons

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Falloir - to need

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