Avoir l'habitude de = 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.

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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


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.
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