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Avoir l'habitude = To be in the habit of, to tend to

Look at these sentences expressing a habit in different tenses:

Leur goût est horrible mais j'ai l'habitude de prendre mes médicaments maintenant.
It tastes horrible but I'm used to taking my medicine now.  
(Lit: their taste is horrible)

J'ai l'habitude de prendre le bus numéro 12 le matin.
I (usually) take the no. 12 bus in the morning.  
I tend to take the no. 12 bus in the morning.

Il avait l'habitude de monter aux arbres quand il était petit.
He used to climb trees when he was small. 
He climbed trees when he was small.

Nous avions l'habitude d'aller voir notre grand-mère le dimanche.
We used to go and see our grandmother on Sundays.  
We went and saw our grandmother on Sundays.

Note that to express or emphasise a habit in French, we use avoir l'habitude de (literally: to have the habit of).  

A habit in the present

In the present tense, j'ai l'habitude de would translate as I tend to, I'm used to or just by using the Simple Present in English (e.g. I wake up at 6 every morning.)

A habit in the past

In the past tense, j'avais l'habitude de would translate as I used to, or just by using the Simple Past in English (e.g. I woke up at 5 every morning.)

Note that for the past, avoir is conjugated in l'Imparfait, NOT Le Passé Composé, as it expresses a repeated action in the past. 

You can also use d'habitude which means and is used the same way as usually in English.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nous avions l'habitude d'aller voir notre grand-mère le dimanche.
We used to go and see our grandmother on Sundays.  
We went and saw our grandmother on Sundays.


past tense


Il avait l'habitude de monter aux arbres quand il était petit.
He used to climb trees when he was small. 
He climbed trees when he was small.


present tense


J'ai l'habitude de prendre le bus numéro 12 le matin.
I (usually) take the no. 12 bus in the morning.  
I tend to take the no. 12 bus in the morning.


Leur goût est horrible mais j'ai l'habitude de prendre mes médicaments maintenant.
It tastes horrible but I'm used to taking my medicine now.  
(Lit: their taste is horrible)


Q&A

Hugh

Kwiziq community member

12 May 2018

2 replies

Idionatic use of 'would '

Presumably one could translate into English using 'would': Eg 'We would go and see our grandmother on Sunday' carries the same sense of a repeated action that the imperfect does.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 May 2018

12/05/18

Hi Hugh, yes, I agree. -- Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 May 2018

14/05/18

Hi Hugh,


Yes indeed, the use of 'would' in English for something you habitually used to do is translated in French by the 'imparfait'.


Hope this helps!

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2018

1 reply

You can use avoir tendance à, too, right?

Maybe that could be mentioned in the lesson?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Hi CrystalMaiden,


Indeed you can use 'avoir tendance à' for 'to tend to' but there is a slight difference between a tendency (une tendance) and a habit (une habitude).


For instance you would say;


"Il a tendance à se répéter" (He tends to repeat himself) rather than "il a l'habitude de se répéter"


or "Ils ont tendance à exagérer leurs compétences" (They tend to overstate their abilities) rather than "ils ont l'habitude .... it's a question of an inclination or a tendancy to do something rather than a habit...


But you will use 'avoir l'habitude de' for things you do most of the time.


"Nous avons l'habitude de nous réveiller très tôt le matin.


(We are in the habit of waking up early in the morning. 


I know it's a nuance and probably sounds like nitpicking ....


Hope this helps!


 

Lee

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

2 replies

OK now I get it.

OK now I get it. It's "I'm used to..." rather than "I used to..." , so it's "J'ai"for the former and "J'avais" for the latter

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

15/03/18

Third time's the charm ;)


-- Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 May 2018

30/05/18

You are correct Lee!

Lee

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

2 replies

Sorry, my question was incomplete. I was marked wrong for using "J' avais'l'habitude de ....."

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

15/03/18

Continuing from your previous post on this subject:


J'ai l'habitude de me coucher tard. -- I am used to going to bed late.
J'avais l'habitude de me coucher tard. -- I was used to going to bed late.


The former is in the present tense whereas the latter is in the imperfect tense.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 June 2018

23/06/18

Hi Lee,


Please re-post your question using the 'Report it' button in your Correction Board, as it links to the specific quiz you're referring to and makes it easier for us to answer you.


The Q&A is for more general language questions.

Lee

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

1 reply

use 'habitude'I'm used to going to bed late. : ___ me coucher tard.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2018

15/03/18

Hi Lee, just following the pattern explained in the associated lesson will get you to the answer: "avoir l'habitude de ...".


J'ai l'habitude de me coucher tard. -- I'm used to going to bed late.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).



devansh

Kwiziq community member

23 January 2018

1 reply

Where are the kwizes

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

30 January 2018

30/01/18

Bonjour Devansh !

We had some issues with the microkwizzes which unfortunately meant that we have had to remove that feature temporarily.
We are looking at how to properly implement the feature as we are aware they were popular.

In the meantime, as a workaround: to quiz on a single lesson you can use the "Add to notebook" button and kwiz against the notebook - each kwiz will select a different question each time.

Sorry for the inconvenience.
Bonne journée !

William

Kwiziq community member

26 January 2017

1 reply

Translating " J'ai l'habitude de me coucher tard"

I think in English present tense that "I usually got to bed late" works best with above

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

27 January 2017

27/01/17

Bonjour William !

The sentence in French is in the present tense, stating a current habit:
I usually go to bed late.

To say "I usually got/went to bed late", you would need L'Imparfait (habit in the past):
"J'avais l'habitude de me coucher tard."

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

yellamaraju

Kwiziq community member

15 January 2016

1 reply

Le impérfait is also used to express a habit like "avoir l'habitude de"

Ils avaient l'habitude de se coucher avant 10 heures / Ils se couchaient avant 10 heures; Do both can be used to mean "used to go to bed before 10"?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

15 January 2016

15/01/16

Bonjour Yellamaraju,

Yes, sort of. "Ils avaient l'habitude de se coucher" stresses the fact that it was a regular event, more like "they were in the habit of going to bed" while "il se couchaient" just means "they used to go to bed."

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