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.
She's not in pain.

Avoir mal à + [partie du corps]

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 sore throat.

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

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


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


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



avoir mal


J'ai très mal!
It really hurts!  


Elle n'a pas mal.
She's not hurt.
She's not in pain.


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 aux dents.
My teeth hurt.
I have a toothache.


Tu as mal au ventre.
Your stomach aches.
You have a stomach ache.


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


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


Q&A Forum 8 questions, 11 answers

J'ai mal aux dents

Salut a tous

If aux dents is plural how can it be translated as I have a toothache?

Merci

Asked 1 month ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

This is an example where literal translation doesn't work. In English you can't say, "I have teethache" whereas in French you can.

J'ai mal aux dents

Salut a tous

If aux dents is plural how can it be translated as I have a toothache?

Merci

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Hello, why not "mal à les oreilles?" for plural as it is feminine?

Asked 6 months ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Bonjour Martha !

The contraction of "à + les" into "aux" is not affected by gender, as you use "les" for both masculine and feminine nouns :)

I hope that's helpful!Bonne journée !

Hello, why not "mal à les oreilles?" for plural as it is feminine?

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One of the first sentences I learned years ago was “J’ai un mal du tête” for i have a headache. This was from a Parisienne. Was this less formal?

Asked 8 months ago
AlanC1Correct answer

I think Rose Marie meant "J'ai un mal de tête".  I don't know if that would be considered less formal. This thread on WordReference suggests it's more complicated than that. 

https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/jai-un-mal-de-t%C3%AAte-jai-mal-%C3%A0-la-t%C3%AAte.732133/

One user says:

On dit "j'ai mal à la tête" ou "j'ai un (violent) mal de tête"

Dans la deuxième expression, il y a toujours un adjectif pour qualifier le mal de tête.

Another user says that there is often an adjective, but not always.

Just a slight correction: J'ai mal à la tête. This is perfectly ok to say, and it is certainly not slang.

One of the first sentences I learned years ago was “J’ai un mal du tête” for i have a headache. This was from a Parisienne. Was this less formal?

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JamieA1

Small typo

You wrote My throat is sore / I have a sorethroat, but "sore throat" is always written as two words in English, unlike "toothache" or similar words
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Bonjour Jamie !

Indeed, thanks for letting us know :)

It's now been fixed!

Merci et bonne journée !

Jamie asked:View original

Small typo

You wrote My throat is sore / I have a sorethroat, but "sore throat" is always written as two words in English, unlike "toothache" or similar words

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IanC1

How does one say "He has a bad knee" in French?

ie, a chronically bad knee, as opposed to one that it is in pain right now?
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Ian,

You would probably say : "J'ai un problème ( chronique) de genou" ( I have a knee condition /problem) rather than "j'ai mal au genou".

Hope this helps!

IanC1
Thanks Cėcile, much appreciated.

How does one say "He has a bad knee" in French?

ie, a chronically bad knee, as opposed to one that it is in pain right now?

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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 ...
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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 !

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 ...

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DanielA2

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?
Asked 2 years ago

Thanks for the answer!

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

Daniel asked:View original

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?

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Recorded volume on video much too low.

Asked 2 years ago
LauraKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Hoyt, Thanks for letting us know, we'll get that fixed.
AurélieKwiziq language super star
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 !

Recorded volume on video much too low.

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Let me take a look at that...