All About the French Verb Falloir

Baby pulling on mother's clothing

Tara Moore/Getty Images

Falloir is an irregular impersonal French verb that is better known in its conjugated form: il faut. Falloir means "to be necessary" or "to need." It is impersonal, meaning that it has only one grammatical person: the third person singular. It may be followed by the subjunctive, an infinitive, or a noun.

Examples of Falloir

   Il faut partir
It's necessary to leave
Il faut que nous partions
We have to leave
Il faut de l'argent pour faire ça
It's necessary to have / You need money to do that
When falloir is followed by an infinitive or noun, it may be used with an indirect object pronoun to indicate who or what needs whatever comes next:
Il faut manger
It's necessary to eat
Il nous faut manger
We have to eat
Il faut une voiture
It's necessary to have a car
Il me faut une voiture
I need a car

Expressions with Falloir

Falloir is used in a number of expressions, including:
ce qu'il faut - what is needed
Il a bien fallu ! - I/We/They had to!
s'il le faut - if (it's) necessary
Faudrait voir à voir (informal) - Come on! Come off it!
Il faut ce qu'il faut (informal) - You've got to do things right

S'en falloir

The impersonal pronominal construction s'en falloir means to be missing or short of something, as in "this action did not occur because something was missing":
Tu as raté son appel, il s'en est fallu de 10 minutes
You missed his call by 10 minutes
Je n'ai pas perdu, mais il s'en est fallu de peu
I very nearly lost (I didn't lose, but it was close)

Conjugations

Here are the most common tenses of falloir.

   Present tense   il faut
Imperfect   il fallait
Future   il faudra