avoir à vs devoir

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour !

From L1 Lesson 6.7:

I'm wondering about the use of avoir à, rather than an equivalent form of devoir in the sentence:

Je n'aurai pas à attendre trop longtemps, quand même ?

It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on there (sneaky little à), since I was convinced that avoir was never used in the English manner of “to have to”, which is the domain of devoir. So, I'm wondering how common this usage is and how one decides to use it.

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I'm also interested in, “ne vous en faites pas” vs “ne vous inquiétez pas”. 

Since, as I discovered, “vous en faites pas” means, “you don't care”, my hunch is that “ne vous en faites pas” is more akin to, you shouldn't care; you shouldn't give another thought; never mind, maybe even a polite mind your own business, etc.

Whereas, “ne vous inquiétez pas” allows for your interest and caring, just don't worry.

Merci !

Robert

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

1. Avoir à / Devoir - it's a subtle difference

‘Avoir à’ is used more in the negative meaning ‘to have no need to do sth.’ ‘Devoir’ is used in both and as you know means ‘to have to’ or ‘must’. Let's have a look at two examples, which may show the subtle difference:

  • Tu ne dois pas t'excuser. (You must not apologise.)
  • Tu n'as pas à t'excuser. (You don't need to apologise.)

The difference is subtle, and I would say that ‘avoir à’ is euphemistic.

 

2. Ne pas s'en faire and ne pas s'inquiéter - essentially the same.

If you look up a French dictionary for each, ne pas s'en faire will be the definition for ne pas s'inquiéter and vice versa. However, ne pas s'inquiéter can be used in the past, present and future and really any context you like. Ne pas s'en faire is restricted more to the present simple or imperative. 

Ne pas s'en faire is a contraction of the phrase ‘ne pas se faire de soucis’ (to not make worries for yourself - literally, or just to not worry).

 

I hope this helps!

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Merci Mitchell. Yes, based on your examples, I can easily see why you would consider avoir à euphemistic. Very interesting, indeed.

 

In keeping with the theme of what's-the-difference, I'm wondering about the use of 'ils ont' in Je me demande s'ils ont des docteurs à l'hôpital. (Less. 7.4) It seems to me to be precisely the same impersonal usage that would normally indicate ‘il y a’, as opposed to, actually meaning, “they are”. I just don't comprehend ‘ils ont’ meaning ‘there are’.

 

Merci.

Robert

 

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Mitchell-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Bonjour Robert,

 

I find with problems like this, a good place to start is with a word-for-word translation, and then work from there. I will use the above example:

  • Original: Je me demande s'ils ont des docteurs à l'hôpital.
  • Word-for-word: I myself ask if they have some doctors at the hospital.
  • Given translation: I wonder if they have doctors at the hospital.

The given translation is actually pretty close to the word-for-word translation, so I assume it is perhaps more the phrasing. We are able to say this in English as well.

  • I wonder if there are doctors at the hospital.
  • I wonder if they have doctors at the hospital.

These two sentences mean exactly the same thing. ‘They’ in sentence #2 doesn't refer to anyone in particular, it is a vague reference to the entity and if they have doctors there.

 

The last thing I can think of is, perhaps it was a misread of the word ‘ont’ (they have) and reading it as ‘sont’ (they are).

 

Let me know if this has answered your question or not. I hope it has helped.

 

Salut

   -   Mitchell

RobertC106

RobertC106

Bonjour Mitchell.

You guessed it. It would help if I read the sentence the way it's written instead of letting my brain insert an s that wasn't even there! I simply “translated” the sentence according to what I thought someone would say in that case (i.e., there are) instead of recognizing the verb for what it was. I have no idea why “they have” didn't occur to me, especially since it was written that way. Thank you for straightening me out. 

 

Merci.

Robert

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