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Abstract Objects - missing words in lesson notes text?


In the Abstract Object lesson notes, it gives examples of having no need of something, for example "Je n'ai pas besoin d'un stylo", but two of the examples seem to be missing the word "besoin":

Elle n'a pas à parler. — She doesn't have to speak. On n'a pas à manger maintenant. — We don't have to eat right now.

Is this intentional, and some short form where the "besoin" is omitted and the sentences translate literally into Enlish as "She does not have to speak", or is this an error?


March 15, 2018

1 Comment


The sentence just before the examples says

In French, to express a lack of obligation, use a negation with avoir besoin de or avoir à.

Conjugated "avoir" + à + infinitive can also be used to express an obligation, albeit less common than the other constructions mentioned in the tips and notes. It mirrors the English construction "to have" + "to" + infinitive (base verb).

  • to have to choose = avoir à choisir
  • I have to talk to you. = J'ai à vous parler.

So it's not about the omission of "besoin." Rather, it's a different construction. And as mentioned in the tips, you use it for a lack of obligation.

In other forms, it's fairly common with an object: ávoir + object of infinitive + à + infinitive, though it doesn't exactly mean the same.

  • J'ai quelque chose à dire = I have something to say.
  • Il a un livre à vous donner. = He has a book to give you.
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