https://www.duolingo.com/CommeuneTexane

TNs, U57: Body (Body Parts with Definite Articles, Avoir mal/Avoir une douleur, Idioms)

As you learned in the "Pronominal Verbs" unit, Francophones avoid using possessive pronouns with parts of the body. Whenever a specific person who has the body part has already been mentioned, the definite article is used instead of a possessive adjective and the verb of the sentence becomes reflexive.

  • Je me lave les mains. (Not Je lave mes mains.) — I am washing my hands.
  • Il s'est cassé la jambe. (Not Il a cassé sa jambe.) — He broke his leg.
  • Elle a les pieds sur une chaise. (Not Elle a ses pieds sur une chaise.) — She has her feet on a chair.

Avoir mal/Avoir une douleur

Use the verb avoir to express pain in French.

  • J’ai très mal. — I’m in a lot of pain. / I really ache.
  • Il n’a pas mal. — He’s not in pain.

When describing pain in specific locations use avoir mal + (au, à la, à l’, aux).

  • Elle a mal au dos. — She has a backache.
  • Simone a mal à la tête. — Simone has a headache.
  • Vous avez mal à l’épaule. — You have hurt your shoulder.
  • Tu as mal aux dents. — Your teeth hurt. / You have a toothache.

The plural of mal is maux and it needs a determiner.

  • Elle souffre de terribles maux de tête. — She suffers from terrible headaches.
  • Je dois aller chez le dentiste pour mes maux de dents. — I need to go to the dentist’s for my toothache.

Pain can also be expressed with avoir une douleur + (au, à la, à l’, aux).

  • J’ai une douleur au côté. — I have a pain in my side.

To talk about pain in general, use the definite article, la, les.

  • La douleur émotionnelle blesse autant que la douleur physique. — Emotional pain hurts as much as physical pain.
  • C’est un médicament contre la douleur. — It’s a pain medication.
  • Quand les douleurs arrivent, respire. — When pain comes, breathe.

Idioms

The expression avoir mal au cœur does not mean that the heart hurts and has nothing to do with heart problems or pain at all. It means "queasy", "nauseated", or "sick to one's stomach".

  • J'ai mal au cœur. — I'm sick to my stomach.

To talk about chest or heart pain use des douleurs thoraciques/cardiaques or more simply des douleurs dans/à la poitrine

  • L'homme a des douleurs cardiaques. — The man has heart pain.

In French, estomac is “stomach”, the organ, and ventre refers to the “belly”, “(lower) abdomen” or “womb”. Thus to describe pain or cramping in your abdomen use ventre, not estomac unless you know you are suffering from stomach disorders specifically.

  • Ça te fait toujours mal au ventre. — That always gives you a bellyache.
  • *Avez-vous des pilules contre les brûlures d’estomac ? — Do you have pills for heartburn?

When shopping for clothing in France, you will need to know how measurements are shown on size charts. Tour de poitrine means the circumference of the chest for men or women.

  • Quel est son tour de poitrine ? — What is his (her) chest measurement?
  • Quel est votre tour de taille ? — What is your waist measurement?
  • Quel est son tour de bassin ? — What is her (his) hip measurement?

Important: If you find any errors in the Tips and Notes, have questions related to the grammar points above, or would like to discuss the topic in depth, please feel free to comment below. We ask that you keep your comments on topic so that this post stays educational and everyone can benefit from them. Any spam or unrelated comments will be deleted.

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1 month ago

4 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/ArpsTnd
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Sorry for commenting, but how to express pain with plural persons?

Our heads hurt.
Is it « Nous avons mal aux têtes » because we (of course) don't have only one head, like we are seven, therefore there are seven heads or « Nous avons mal à la tête » because each one of us has only one head? Thanks and sorry. Just delete this if it sounds spam.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CommeuneTexane

Bonjour !

This the right place to ask questions.

You are correct, nous avons mal à la tête means "our heads hurt". Tête does not need to be plural, since each of us has one. If these are reoccurring headaches you could say nous avons des maux de tête.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ArpsTnd
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Thanks for the response and sorry if I made something wrong by asking. :)

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CommeuneTexane

De rien !
Please don't hesitate to ask if you have a grammar or language question. They are welcome here. :-)

1 month ago
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