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Avoir mal (à) = To be in pain, to hurt somewhere

"Avoir mal"

To express physical pain in French, you will use the expression "avoir mal" (literally 'to have pain')

J'ai très mal!
It really hurts!  

Elle n'a pas mal
She's not hurt


"Avoir mal à"

When the pain is localised, you use "avoir mal à (+ le/la/l'/les)" followed by the part of the body that hurts.

Remember that à + le and à + les contract in au and aux.

J'ai mal à la gorge
My throat is sore / I have a sorethroat

Sophie a mal à l'oreille
Sophie's ear aches / Sophie has (an) earache

J'ai mal aux dents
My teeth hurt / I have a toothache

ATTENTION: The expression "avoir mal au cœur" does NOT mean you're having a heartache or a heart attack, but that you're feeling sick, like you want to throw up. 

Mon frère a mal au cœur en voiture.
My brother is car sick.

 

Case of œil and yeux:

Maurice a mal à l'œil.
Maurice's eye hurts.

Roxane a mal aux yeux.
Roxane's eyes hurt.

Note that the irregular plural of œil is yeux.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Maurice a mal à l'œil.
Maurice's eye hurts.


Mon frère a mal au cœur en voiture.
My brother is car sick.



Roxane a mal aux yeux.
Roxane's eyes hurt.


avoir mal


J'ai très mal!
It really hurts!  


Elle n'a pas mal
She's not hurt


avoir mal à + body part


Tu as mal au genou
Your knee hurts


Sophie a mal à l'oreille
Sophie's ear aches / Sophie has (an) earache


J'ai mal à la gorge
My throat is sore / I have a sorethroat


Tu as mal au ventre
Your stomach aches / You have a stomachache


Il a mal à la tête
His head hurts / He has a headache


J'ai mal aux dents
My teeth hurt / I have a toothache


Q&A

Stuart

Kwiziq community member

22 December 2017

1 reply

How can you be more specific with pain?

E.g., with knee pain it’s usually the left or the right knee rather than both. What do I add to say the right knee, or left eye, or front tooth etc. I guess the latter involves prepositions ...

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

22 December 2017

22/12/17

Bonjour Stuart !

In these cases, you will use the singular and add the adjectives for left (gauche) or right (droit/droite):


J'ai mal au genou gauche.
Tu as mal à l'oreille droite.
Il a mal à l'œil gauche.
Elle a mal à la dent de devant / aux dents de devant.
 (front teeth, more colloquial here)

Bonne journée !

Daniel

Kwiziq community member

12 July 2017

2 replies

heartache

"ATTENTION: The expression "avoir mal au cœur" does NOT mean you're having a heartache or a heart attack, but that you're feeling sick, like you want to throw up." how do you say "my heart hurts" then?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

13 July 2017

13/07/17

Hi Daniel,

I assume you mean physical pain in the heart here? The cardiac muscle isn't capable of sensing pain in the same way as e..g your skin as most of its nerves do other functions. if someone has a heart condition then this usually* manifests itself as chest pain ("douleur thoracique") or angina ("angine de poitrine").

A person might say "J'ai mal à la poitrine", therefore.

*It's a bit more complicated. For the medically-minded: in the case of ischaemia, depending upon the location and extent of the ischaemia, the vagal afferent nerves can evoke hypotension, bradyarrythmias , nausea and vomiting while the ischaemia-sensitive sympathetic (spinal) afferents can evoke hypertension, tachyarrhythmias and the pain of angina pectoris. Hopefully you won't need to know how to say any of that in French . ;)

Rant

Kwiziq community member

6 May 2018

6/05/18

Thanks for the answer!


But it still leaves unanswered how you say that you are having a heart attack!

Hoyt

Kwiziq community member

19 September 2016

2 replies

Recorded volume on video much too low.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

21 September 2016

21/09/16

Bonjour Hoyt,

Thanks for letting us know, we'll get that fixed.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

21 September 2016

21/09/16

Bonjour Hoyt !

Our videos come from third parties, so unfortunately we have no editing control over them.
We will look for a better recorded video :)
Merci beaucoup !

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