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French grammar - To have to or must - the verb devoir

To have to or must - the verb devoir

The verb devoir means 'to have to' or 'must be'. It is a very common auxiliary.

Devoir has three meanings: (i) requirement as in 'to be required to do'; (ii) supposition as in 'to probably be doing' or 'must be doing'; and (iii) debt or obligation as in 'to owe' someone something.

-- The first two are very similar to the word 'must' in English. For example 'He must work' (requirement) and 'He must be working late' (supposition).

It is an irregular -IR verb that conjugates in the present tense as follows:

je dois

tu dois

il & elle doit

nous devons

vous devez

ils & elle doivent

Je dois aller à l'école.
I have to go to school.
Tu dois manger ton dîner.
You (familiar) have to eat your dinner.
Il doit travailler tard le soir.
He must work late at night.
Ta chambre doit toujours être en ordre.
Your (familiar) room should always be in order.

en ordre means 'in order'

Nous devons faire le ménage.
We have to do the housework.
Devez-vous payer cette amende cette semaine ?
Do you (formal) have to pay that fine this week?
Ils doivent faire leurs devoirs maintenant.
They have to do their homework now.
Tu dois être fatigué.
You (familiar) must be tired.
Il doit travailler tard.
He must be working late.
Le nouveau bureau doit ouvrir bientôt.
The new office must be opening soon.
Ça doit être le facteur.
Must be the postman.

facteur (m) means 'postman'

Je dois huit euros à mon ami.
I owe my friend eight euros.

devoir à means 'to owe to (someone'

Pourquoi lui dois-tu de l'argent ?
Why do you (familiar) owe him money?
Vous me devez une explication !
You (formal) owe me an explanation!

explication (f) means 'explanation'

Je me dois des vacances après tout ça.
I owe myself a vacation after all that.
Ils te doivent bien ça.
They (certainly) owe you (familiar) that.