In French culture, expressing a need can be seen as impolite or demanding. Instead, French people tend to use more subtle expressions to convey their desires and wishes, such as using the French expression avoir envie to express their wants politely.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the meaning of avoir envie, how to use it in context, and how it differs from the verb vouloir when expressing a desire.
What Means Avoir Envie in French?
In French, the noun envie translates as “wish” or “desire”. French expression Avoir envie means “to feel like” or “to have a desire for.” The expression implies a strong desire, sometimes one of great strength, but it does not imply a real need.
It may be a big desire, but nothing wrong will happen if it’s not satisfied, such as a craving for something sweet.
How to Use French Expression Avoir Envie
The French expression avoir envie is always followed by the preposition de + (what you desire).
The structure is as follows:
conjugated verb avoir + envie + de/d’ + what you desire
J’ai envie d’aller au cinéma ce soir.
I feel like going to the cinema tonight.
As-tu envie de rester ici?
Do you want to stay here?
J’ai envie d’un café ce matin.
I feel like having a coffee this morning.
As you can see in the third example above, de appears as d’ since the indefinite article un begins with a vowel.
The expression can also be expressed in the negative form.
“Ne + avoir conjugated” + pas + envie de + invinitive”.
Example Sentences Using avoir envie
Here are some examples of how to use it in context:
Elle a envie de partir en vacances cet été.
She has a desire to go on vacation this summer.
Nous avons envie d’aller au cinéma ce soir.
We feel like going to the movies tonight.
Est-ce que tu as envie de sortir ce soir?
Do you feel like going out tonight?
Il a envie d’apprendre une nouvelle langue.
He has a desire to learn a new language.
Elles ont envie de manger quelque chose de sucré.
They feel like eating something sweet.
Vous avez envie de jouer au tennis avec moi?
Do you feel like playing tennis with me?
J’ai tellement envie de réussir mes examens.
I have such a strong desire to succeed in my exams.
Les enfants ont envie de jouer dehors.
The children feel like playing outside.
Tu as envie de prendre une pause?
Do you feel like taking a break?
To Want in French: Vouloir or Avoir Envie
You may ask, what’s the difference between vouloir and avoir envie in French?
Well, there’s a big difference for French people, and perhaps not so big a difference for anglophones. French are known for subtly expressing their emotions and needs, and therefore using the appropriate words is essential.
For instance, even though vouloir and avoir envie seem to convey the same meaning, they express different degrees of a wish.
Vouloir expresses a desire in an intense way, almost as though it were an urgent need. It suggests that if you fail to satisfy this need/desire, severe consequences could follow.
This way of expressing oneself allows for a more polite and subtle approach, avoiding any direct confrontation or sounding too demanding.
It’s a cultural difference that non-native speakers may find challenging, but understanding it can make a significant difference in how French people perceive you and your communication style.
For example :
Désolé, je ne veux pas faire ça.
Sorry, I don’t want to do that.
And while vouloir would pass if that’s an extreme need, avoir envie de would be a more appropriate choice of words in most daily situations. It would sound more polite if you said”
Désolé, je n’ai pas envie de faire ça.
Sorry, I don’t want to do that.
You’ll often hear children using vouloir more often because they express their cravings and wishes more intensely. In the following example, if a child is a speaker, then the choice of the verb is completely fine.
Je veux une glace.
I want an ice cream.
However, if you don’t wish to pass as a spoiled child, use avoir envie instead.
French Art of Subtle Communication
In conclusion, understanding the subtle nuances between French expressions avoir envie and vouloir is essential to effective communication with French speakers.
By using the appropriate expression, you can convey your desires and wishes politely and effectively, avoiding any misunderstandings and cultural faux pas.
Whether you want to order a coffee, plan a vacation, or express your desires, the right choice of words can make all the difference in how you are perceived. Remember that if you looking for one French Expression to Express Your Wants Politely is avoir envie.
So, the next time you’re in a conversation with a French speaker, keep in mind the differences between avoir envie and vouloir.
Learn more about Expressing Your Emotions Politely.