Faillir + infinitive = I almost did something

Look at these sentences:

J'ai failli le faire, mais je me suis retenu.
I almost did it, but I stopped myself.

Tu as failli y rester.
You almost died [lit. you almost remained there].

Il a failli tomber.
He almost fell.

Ta mère et moi avons failli ne pas nous marier.
Your mother and I almost didn't get married.

Vous avez failli lui dire la vérité.
You almost told him the truth.

Ils ont failli avoir un accident.
They almost had an accident.

In French, to express the idea that you almost did something (but didn't), you will use the verb faillir as follows:

faillir + [infinitif]

Note that the verb faillir is usually used in Passé composé, as it refers to actions that "failed to happen".

ATTENTION: 

Though the verb faillir is etymologically close to the English to fail, it's not used to express failure, but a more neutral non-accomplishment.
Therefore, you wouldn't use it to say I failed to do [something].

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ils ont failli avoir un accident.
They almost had an accident.


J'ai failli le faire, mais je me suis retenu.
I almost did it, but I stopped myself.


Vous avez failli lui dire la vérité.
You almost told him the truth.


Tu as failli y rester.
You almost died [lit. you almost remained there].


Ta mère et moi avons failli ne pas nous marier.
Your mother and I almost didn't get married.


Il a failli tomber.
He almost fell.


Q&A Forum 2 questions, 3 answers

What is the difference between using "faillir" and "il s'en est fallu de peu que"?

For example, "J'ai failli le faire" vs "Il s'en est fallu de peu que je le fasse."

Asked 4 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Dean,

They are very close in meaning , it is the difference between to be close to doing something and to almost do something.

Up to you to judge which one to use...

What is the difference between using "faillir" and "il s'en est fallu de peu que"?

For example, "J'ai failli le faire" vs "Il s'en est fallu de peu que je le fasse."

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In the test it seems strange to say that "he almost wrote his report"

Is this meant to refer to "who has almost finished writing his report"?  Thank you!
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi K,

I believe this example has now been removed....

Dear Cécile,

no, it's still there.

Regards, Karen

In the test it seems strange to say that "he almost wrote his report"

Is this meant to refer to "who has almost finished writing his report"?  Thank you!

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Let me take a look at that...