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

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



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


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


avoir mal


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


J'ai très mal!
It really hurts!  


avoir mal à + body part


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.


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.


Q&A Forum 8 questions, 11 answers

Claudia A2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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 4 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct 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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MarthaC1Kwiziq community member

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

Asked 9 months ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect 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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Rose MarieA2Kwiziq community member

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 11 months ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct 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.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

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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JamieA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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 team memberCorrect 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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IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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 team memberCorrect 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!

IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
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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StuartB1Kwiziq community member

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 team memberCorrect 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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DanielA2Kwiziq community member

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
RantA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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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HoytA2Kwiziq community member

Recorded volume on video much too low.

Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Hoyt, Thanks for letting us know, we'll get that fixed.
AurélieKwiziq team member
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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