Devoir conjugation in French: Tenses and meanings

Devoir conjugation in French

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In this post we’ll focus on one of the most common verbs in French: devoir. Since it’s an irregular verb, our focus will be to introduce French devoir conjugation in each and every tense.

First we’ll start off with a brief overview of devoir meanings, and then we’ll dive into our comprehensive section on devoir conjugation.

Now let’s get started with our post on devoir in French!

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Devoir meanings

In French, devoir can be used either on its own with a direct object, or followed by another verb in its infinitive form. The meaning changes between these two uses, so we’ll look at each one in turn.

Devoir + infinitive

The verb devoir is usually used to express obligation in French. The most straightforward devoir meaning is must, while it’s often translated as to have to or to need to. It’s also frequently used in the conditional tenses as an equivalent for should in French.

For this meaning, we first conjugate devoir and then follow it with another verb in infinitive form to state what must or has to be done. We’ll see this construction in each of our examples below.

For other comparable words and expressions to devoir, we recommend this LingoCulture post on expressing obligation in French. For now though, let’s just see a few examples to demonstrate these devoir meanings:

  • Ils doivent appeler leur mère dès qu’ils arrivent. – They must call their mother as soon as they arrive.
  • Nous devons partir pour l’aéroport avant 05:00. – We have to leave for the airport before 5am.
  • Si vous voulez arriver rapidement, vous devez prendre le métro. – If you want to arrive quickly, you need to take the subway.
  • Je veux aller en boîte ce soir, mais je devrais étudier. –  I want to go to the night club tonight, but I should study.

This French verb devoir in Spanish is deber. Check out our BaseLang post on deber conjugations and meanings, including other ways to express obligation in Spanish.

Devoir + direct object

The other way we use devoir in French is as a transitive verb, meaning that it always takes a direct object. In this use, devoir means to owe. As in English, the direct object is what is owed, while the indirect object indicates to whom it’s owed.

  • Je te dois toujours une bière depuis la dernière fois ! – I still owe you a beer from last time!
  • Au bout de 25 ans de remboursements, mes parents ne doivent plus rien sur leur maison. – After 25 years of payments, my parents don’t owe anything more on their house.

Devoir as a noun

While the focus of this post is indeed on our devoir verb conjugations, we should also note that le devoir is also a masculine noun.

French learners probably recognize one particular translation of devoir, meaning a homework assignment. This noun is often expressed in plural.

  • Je veux aller en boîte ce soir, mais je dois faire mes devoirs. – I want to go to the night club tonight, but I have to do my homework.

The other common meaning of un devoir in French is a duty or an obligation.

  • Votre sécurité est notre plus grand devoir. – Your safety is our biggest duty.

Devoir conjugation tables

Now that we’ve gone over the common meanings of devoir in French, it’s time to see its conjugation in all the French tenses. Since devoir is an irregular verb, it doesn’t follow the standard conjugations of other French -ir verbs.

For a more in-depth discussion of conjugation in French, and of the different French verb tenses in general, we recommend this detailed guide to French verb conjugation.

Now let’s see the devoir conjugation table for each tense. We’ll start off with the indicative mood, broken down into present, past, and future. Then we’ll move on to conditional, subjunctive, and imperative. We’ll end with the other verb forms like the participles. Feel free to scroll down to whichever one you need. On y va!

Devoir conjugation: Present indicative tense

This is the most common tense. Be sure to learn each of these conjugations.

Subject Devoir present indicative conjugation
je dois
tu dois
il, elle, on doit
nous devons
vous devez
ils, elles doivent

Devoir conjugations: Indicative past tenses

Here are the devoir conjugation tables for the indicative past tenses. You should definitely learn the imparfait and the passé composé since they’re so common, while the plus-que-parfait is also useful enough in spoken French. We also include the devoir passé simple and passé antérieur conjugations for completeness, even though they’re rarely used outside of literature.


Subject Devoir imparfait conjugation
je devais
tu devais
il, elle, on devait
nous devions
vous deviez
ils, elles devaient

Passé composé

As we’ll see in the passé composé and all the other compound tenses, the past participle of devoir is .

Subject Devoir passé composé conjugation
j’ ai dû
tu as dû
il, elle, on a dû
nous avons dû
vous avez dû
ils, elles ont dû


Subject Devoir plus-que-parfait conjugation
j’ avais dû
tu avais dû
il, elle, on avait dû
nous avions dû
vous aviez dû
ils, elles avaient dû

Passé simple

Subject Devoir passé simple conjugation
je dus
tu dus
il, elle, on dut
nous dûmes
vous dûtes
ils, elles dument

Passé antérieur

Subject Devoir passé antérieur conjugation
j’ eus dû
tu eus dû
il, elle, on eut dû
nous eûmes du
vous eûtes du
ils, elles eurent du

Devoir conjugations: Indicative future tenses

Here we’ll cover devoir conjugation for the two French indicative verb tenses for speaking about the future: the futur simple and the futur antérieur.

Futur simple

Subject Devoir futur simple conjugation
je devrai
tu devras
il, elle, on devra
nous devrons
vous devrez
ils, elles devront

Futur antérieur

Subject Devoir futur antérieur conjugation
j’ aurai dû
tu auras dû
il, elle, on aura dû
nous aurons dû
vous auriez dû
ils, elles auraient dû

Devoir conjugation: Conditional tenses

We have two conditional verb tenses in French: the conditionnel présent and the conditionnel passé. The present conditional tense can be used to be polite, so for devoir it translates as should. Likewise, the past conditional devoir conjugation translates as should have.

Conditionnel présent

Subject Devoir conjugation: conditionnel présent
je devrais
tu devrais
il, elle, on devrait
nous devrions
vous devriez
ils, elles devraient

Conditionnel passé

Subject Devoir conjugation: conditionnel passé
j’ aurais dû
tu aurais dû
il, elle, on aurait dû
nous aurions dû
vous auriez dû
ils, elles auraient dû

Devoir conjugations in the subjunctive

We have four subjunctive tenses in French. The subjonctif présent and the subjonctif passé are the most common and used in everyday French. The subjonctif imparfait and the subjonctif plus-que-parfait appear only in classic French literature.

Devoir in subjonctif présent can have a few English translations. Depending on the context, it may be should, need to, or have to. In the subjonctif passé, devoir may be should have, had needed to, or had had to.

Subjonctif présent

Subject Devoir conjugation: subjonctif présent
je doive
tu doives
il, elle, on doive
nous devions
vous deviez
ils, elles doivent

Subjonctif passé

Subject Devoir conjugation: subjonctif passé
j’ aie dû
tu aies dû
il, elle, on ait dû
nous ayons dû
vous ayez dû
ils, elles aient dû

Subjonctif imparfait

Subject Devoir conjugation: subjonctif imparfait
je dusse
tu dusses
il, elle, on dût
nous dussions
vous dussiez
ils, elles dussent

Subjonctif plus-que-parfait

Subject Devoir conjugation: subjonctif plus-que-parfait
j’ eusse dû
tu eusses dû
il, elle, on eût dû
nous eussions dû
vous eussiez dû
ils, elles eussent dû

Devoir conjugation in the imperative

The imperative is used to give commands or requests to others. The subject is dropped from the sentence when using these tenses.

In the case of devoir, we can’t really use it in the imperative because it’s unrealistic to order someone to must. Nonetheless, devoir imperative conjugations exist, so we include them here for completeness.


Subject Devoir impératif conjugation
[tu] dois
[nous] devons
[vous] devez

Impératif passé

Subject Devoir impératif passé conjugation
[tu] aies dû
[nous] ayons dû
[vous] ayez dû

Devoir participles

We already saw the past participle of devoir in all of our compound conjugations, whose possible translations include needed, needed to, or had to. Devoir’s participe composé can therefore be having needed, having needed to, or having had to. The present participle of devoir translates best as needing to or having to.

Participe présent devant
Participe passé
Participe composé ayant dû

Past infinitive of devoir

Our final devoir verb form is the infinitif passé, which translates as have needed, have needed to, or have had to.

Infinitif passé avoir dû

Conclusion: Devoir conjugation

We’ve reached the end of our post on the French verb devoir, so let’s just do a quick recap on what we saw.

We started off looking at the meaning of devoir, with the verb’s main English translations including to need to, to have to, must, and even should. We also saw devoir as a noun, with its main translation as homework in French.

Then we got into the devoir conjugation tables. As an irregular verb, it’s important to have an easy reference for any of the tenses. We made it easy to find whichever one you’re looking for, grouped by mood. We ended with the other verb forms of devoir, namely the participles.

Avec ça, nous devons finir. À la prochaine! – And with that, we need to finish. Until next time!


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