faire versus avoir

Ok, so I needed to translate "La femme fait des enfants." With the help of the peek tool it's pretty obvious that in English this is "the woman has (some) children".

But this gets me thinking that the verb avoir also means "to have". Am I right in thinking that faire is being used here to suggest that the children are her own children, i.e. she "made" the children?

Duolingo is great, but it doesn't really explain the subtleties.

Would "la femme a des enfants" mean more or less than same thing, or is it a bit odd? Guessing that this is more like she currently has children in her possession, assuming that it's correct grammar at all.

July 4, 2012


I've read "faire des enfants" elsewhere, but I don't think it is common and I am sure that "avoir" is the normal way to say that someone has a child or children. I have never heard "faire enfants" in speech. (I live in France now.)

"Ils n'ont pas le temps de faire des enfants".makes sense to me. We sometimes use "make babies" in English but the register is quite casual. I can't judge the level of "faire des enfants" but I think it is a bit more formal than "make babies"

Here it is used as a synonym for "avoir" in one sentence, then "avoir" is used in the next. "À la base, c'est une histoire banale, celle d'un couple qui s'aime vingt ans, fait quatre enfants, puis se sépare. L'homme a refait sa vie avec une autre, qui fut mariée, qui a des enfants aussi." Source:

Hope this helps.

July 4, 2012

AFAIK "La femme fait des enfants" either means "The woman gives birth..." or "The woman begets...". Never heard of it in the meaning of "to have children" in the possessive sense . Any native speaker around? EDIT: clarified the meaning of 'to have children' as this is ambiguous in English. Thanks, fleur!

July 4, 2012

@wataya, I think in English, "to have children" can also refer to the act of birth itself, which might be the source of confusion. But I would also like to have a native speaker shed some light on this!

July 4, 2012

@Fleur: Yes, good point!

July 4, 2012

@Mizotte: Thanks a lot. So, the couple 'made' children, then got seperated and the man got married to another woman who already 'had' some children. This does make sense to me: You use 'faire' for the 'act of producing children' / 'giving birth' and 'avoir' for 'possessing' them.

July 4, 2012

I also assume that the confusion comes from the English expression "to have babies". However, I think that means that DuoLingo's translation is incorrect: "the woman has (some) children" certainly doesn't convey this expression.

July 6, 2012
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