Bootstrap French Grammar

Learn French Grammar step-by-step

French grammar - Almost - avoir failli

Almost - avoir failli

The verb faillir is very commonly used in the passé composé to express 'to almost have (done something)' or 'to nearly have (done something)'.

The passé composé avoir failli is followed by an infinitive.

When followed by à and a noun it means 'to fail at/in (something)' or 'to fail to adhere to (something)'

Examples:
J'ai failli tomber.
I almost fell.
J'ai failli avoir un accident.
I almost had an accident.
Ils ont failli me rentrer dedans.
They almost ran into me.
Nous avons failli rater le train.
We almost missed the train.
J'ai failli le faire, mais je me suis retenu.
I almost did it, but I held myself back.

se retenir de means 'to restrain oneself (doing something)'

Nous avons failli perdre nos clés.
We almost lost our keys.
Il a failli pleurer quand elle est partie.
He almost cried when she left.
Vous avez failli renverser la vieille dame.
You almost knocked over the old lady.
Une maladie du sang rare a failli me coûter la vie.
A rare blood disease almost cost me my life.
Tu as failli y rester.
You almost died [expression].

Literally 'You nearly stayed there'.

J'ai failli à ma promesse.
I failed to keep my promise.
Tu as failli à ta tâche.
You have failed in your task.
Je n'ai jamais failli à ma parole.
I have never broken my word.
Notre famille n'a pas failli à la tradition - le déjeuner de Noël sur la plage.
Our family did not break the tradition - the Christmas lunch on the beach.
Il faut ne pas faillir à sa parole.
You must not break your word.