1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "I have to think of my childr…

"I have to think of my children."

Translation:Je dois penser à mes enfants.

March 5, 2013



Can de work instead of à?


No, the construction is with preposition "à" to mean "of" or "about".

But if the sentence was: "what do you think of it?" the French would be "que penses-tu de ça ?".


Yes, thank you for all of your help. I have gotten so that I just scroll down and look for what Sitesurf has to say on any page :)

I'm really struggling with getting this solid in my head. I get it wrong every time. I still don't understand the difference between the two sample sentences you used here. Why is "de" used in the second sentence, and "à" used in the first when they both mean "of" in these cases?


There is no reason other than the random construction of verbs + various prepositions.

Think for example about different constructions in English: I think of my children vs I talk to my children. Different verbs, different prepositions.

In French, it is the same, some verbs are constructed with "à", others with "de". The only thing you can do is try to practice them in short sentences you would learn by heart, maybe with tips of your own?


Agree, English is even messier than French: except in your example above - we are talking about the same verb: penser... :)


I was under the impression that "penser à" refers to thinking about something, in the sense that it's on your mind.

"Penser de" refers to having an opinion about something.

Here, she's not forming an opinion about her children, but she's thinking of them.


From: https://www.thoughtco.com/french-verb-penser-1368903

Both penser à and penser de can usually be translated as "to think about." The problem is that this English phrase has two different meanings.

Penser à means "to think about" in the sense of "to have in one's mind, to consider, to think over."

Penser de, on the other hand, means "to think about" in the sense of "to have an opinion about."


Ah, how I wish I had a lingot to give you--this is a great explanation.


Thanks for all your great feedback, Sitesurf.


Why is "je dois" used instead of "j'ai"?


"j'ai à + infinitive" is sometimes used to mean "I have to + infinitive".

ex: "je sais ce que j'ai à faire" = "I know what I have to do"


yes, but it's a border line literal, if you know what I mean. I have something that needs to be done. (es-tu avec moi?)

  • 1855

"I have to" is a (modal) phrase that means "je dois" (in English: "I must").

You cannot translate it literally in French.


Why is it not aux?


"aux" is a contraction of "à les". Here you have a possessive adjective ("my/mes", not "the/les").


Can 'je besoin de' replace 'je dois'? Are need and have to that different?

  • 1855

"Je does penser" can be replaced by "J'ai besoin de penser".


I think it has to be 'j'ai besoin de' -- I have a need to


It's very hard to figure out which one is acceptable in which circumstance. I guess the only way to learn is practice?


I really like this sentence, you have a good chance of learning something before being tested. Prefer that Duo!


I said "J'ai penser de mes infants." So what exactly would that translate if it isn't "I have to think of my children."


French infinitives are one word only "penser" = "to think".

But a limited number of verbs can directly get an infinitive without a preposition to link them:

  • aimer/aimer mieux, aller, compter, croire, daigner, devoir, entendre, espérer, faire, falloir, (s')imaginer, laisser, oser, penser, pouvoir, prétendre, savoir, sembler, sentir, valoir mieux, venir, voir and vouloir.

"avoir" is not one of them. "I have to think" can have a translation using "avoir", but it needs preposition "à": J'ai à penser à mes enfants.

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.