Faire mal à vs faire du mal à = to hurt someone

In French, there are two very close expressions to express the nuance between hurting someone physically and hurting them emotionally.

Look at these sentences:

Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)

Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend.  (emotionally)

Tu fais mal à ta sœur.
You're hurting your sister

Laura a fait mal à Juliette.
Laura hurt Juliette.

Tu as fait du mal à Paula quand tu as rompu avec elle.
You hurt Paula when you broke up with her.

To express to hurt someone (physically) in French, you use the expression faire mal à + person. (literally to do hurt to)

To express to hurt someone (emotionally), you use the expression faire du mal à + person. (literally to do (some) hurt/damage to)

ATTENTION: 
To use both these expressions with to hurt me/you/him/her/us/you/them, you will use me/te/lui/nous/vous/leur before the whole expression in simple and compound tenses, and between aller and faire (du) mal in Le Futur Proche.

Je vais te faire du mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay. (emotionally)

Je vais te faire mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay.  (physically)

Paul me fait mal.
Paul is hurting me.

Nous vous avons fait mal.
We hurt you

Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)

Elle me fait du mal quand elle dit ça.
She hurts me when she says that.

 

See also Position of object pronouns with infinitives 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Elle me fait du mal quand elle dit ça.
She hurts me when she says that.


Vous allez lui faire mal.
You're going to hurt him.


Je vais te faire du mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay. (emotionally)


Tu as fait du mal à Paula quand tu as rompu avec elle.
You hurt Paula when you broke up with her.


Il va lui faire du mal, je le sens.
He's going to hurt her, I can feel it.


Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend.  (emotionally)


Nous vous avons fait mal.
We hurt you


Laura a fait mal à Juliette.
Laura hurt Juliette.


Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)


Paul me fait mal.
Paul is hurting me.


Tu fais mal à ta sœur.
You're hurting your sister


Je vais te faire mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay.  (physically)


Q&A Forum 11 questions, 18 answers

DA2

Backwards

I seem to be going backwards, losing confidence by the day with this lesson.  Very disappointed in the content and exercises.  This system of questions seems to be hurting me more than helping,

It’s like the rules change every time I read this lesson.

Regretting paying for a whole year.......

Asked 6 months ago
GruffKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Sorry to hear this Darren!

Some reassurance: getting to level A2 (which I can see you've reached from your brainmap) can be a very tough stage of learning. In fact, it's so common I devoted a whole section to it in my article, 13 tips for language learners, which you may find helpful:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-easiest-way-to-learn-French 

A little quote from it about levels A1 and A2, "Expect a lot of fog and confusion for the first few hundred hours.  It's completely normal... EVERYONE feels this way, even the people who seem really gifted at languages."

Hopefully the tips will help, and I'd say stick with it, the fog will clear! Of course, if you're still unhappy with subscribing in a few weeks, just write in to support and we can sort out a package downgrade for you.

Best wishes, Gruff

Backwards

I seem to be going backwards, losing confidence by the day with this lesson.  Very disappointed in the content and exercises.  This system of questions seems to be hurting me more than helping,

It’s like the rules change every time I read this lesson.

Regretting paying for a whole year.......

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Construction of future tense

It says with future proche the placement of me, te, lui, etc. is between aller and faire (du) mal. But in "Il va faire mal à ma meillure amie" that is not where it is placed. Isn't that sentence future proche? I'm confused.
Asked 9 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Nicole,

 Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie ------ Il va lui faire mal

Elle va faire mal à mes parents ---- Elle va leur faire mal

Hope this helps!

Actually I just realized there is no me, te, lui, etc. in that sentence. But I would like to see an example where it is constructed that way.

How  about this: Il va me faire mal.
Merci, Chris et Cécile!

Construction of future tense

It says with future proche the placement of me, te, lui, etc. is between aller and faire (du) mal. But in "Il va faire mal à ma meillure amie" that is not where it is placed. Isn't that sentence future proche? I'm confused.

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a question within a question

"J'ai fait mal à Olive hier quand je lui ai marché sur le pied."  While I'm slowly getting the hang of faire mal à versus faire du mal...why is LUI in the example above?

Asked 10 months ago
Lui is the indirect hobject pronoun replacing Olive. 

a question within a question

"J'ai fait mal à Olive hier quand je lui ai marché sur le pied."  While I'm slowly getting the hang of faire mal à versus faire du mal...why is LUI in the example above?

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JayC1

Marie fait du mal à moi quand elle dit ça... Why has this been marked wrong in my test? Couldn't it mean she has hurt 'me' - rather than anyone else

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Jay,

If you use the 'Report it' button in your Correction Board, it links to the specific quiz you are referring to and makes it easier for us to answer you.

But in any case, "Marie fait du mal à moi quand elle dit ça" should be -"Marie me fait mal quand elle dit ça .

Hope this helps!

Marie fait du mal à moi quand elle dit ça... Why has this been marked wrong in my test? Couldn't it mean she has hurt 'me' - rather than anyone else

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Faire mal à

In the example:  "Nous avons fait mal à nos amis."

Does à never change to aux?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Carole,

Indeed if you have à + les it will become aux.

e.g. Nous avons fait du mal aux parents de Bertrand.

Hope this helps!

 

Faire mal à

In the example:  "Nous avons fait mal à nos amis."

Does à never change to aux?

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JenniferA2

Does "Paul me fait mal" mean "Paul is hurting me" physically or emotionally?

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Bonjour Jennifer !

"Paul me fait mal" means he's hurting you physically.

"Paul me fait du mal" would be emotionally.

Bonne journée !

JenniferA2
Merci!
Jennifer asked:View original

Does "Paul me fait mal" mean "Paul is hurting me" physically or emotionally?

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Blesser

When do you "blesser" instead of "faire du mal"
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Stephen,

The verb 'blesser' is just another way of saying to hurt/to harm  in French . Both 'blesser' and 'faire mal'  can both used to describe physical and emotional hurt.

Blesser has the advantage of having a noun - un blessé which would describe an injured person sometimes used with a number or a numerical expression to describe the casualties in an accident.

e.g. Il y a un grand nombre de blessés sur les routes tous les ans .There a large number of casualties on the roads every year.

Se blesser = se faire mal to hurt yourself

Je me suis blessé(e) = je me suis fait mal I hurt myself 

You can 'blesser quelqu'un' or 'faire (du) mal à quelqu'un'= which can be either physical or figurative hurt or harm.

Hope this helps!

Blesser can be used to connote physical as well as emotional hurt whereas "faire du mal" only works for emtional slights. You have the option, it's your choice. As I understand it, "blesser" stands for more serious injuries, in general. -- Chris (not a native speaker).
In view of that why was I marked wrong in answering "A chaque fois que tu ___, elle a des bleus sur les bras." with "blesses ta soeur" rather than "fais mal à ta sœur"? Is it because Kwiziq is insisting on the use of the œ character?

Blesser

When do you "blesser" instead of "faire du mal"

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Sorry, hit the wrong key. Question below.

If the type of hurt is not specified (I hurt Olive yesterday.) how does one know whether it is an emotional or physical hurt? I hurt Olive yesterday was on an A2 test, and I wonder if it might be better on a comprehension type question like this to specify which type hurt the question is looking for. Thank you for your help on this, I appreciate it.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Terri !

I agree with you that this question definitely needed a clearer context, and I've now added it:
___ hier quand je lui ai marché sur le pied. (I hurt Olive yesterday when I stepped on her foot.)

Note: for these types of specific questions, please use the "Report it" button in your correction board in the future  :)

À bientôt !

Sorry, hit the wrong key. Question below.

If the type of hurt is not specified (I hurt Olive yesterday.) how does one know whether it is an emotional or physical hurt? I hurt Olive yesterday was on an A2 test, and I wonder if it might be better on a comprehension type question like this to specify which type hurt the question is looking for. Thank you for your help on this, I appreciate it.

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If the type of hurt is not specified, is there a 'default' translation?

Asked 2 years ago
RonC1
Bonsoir, Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie. He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically) Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie. He's going to hurt my best friend. (emotionally) This is an excellent question because given the two examples above, sans the state in parentheses it would be very difficult to differentiate a translation; however, also in the lesson it states that «faire du mal à» is specific to emotional or psychological pain, hurt while «faire mal à» is specific to a physical hurt, i.e. cut, bruised, kicked, etc. Votre question m'a plu certainement parce qu'il m'a fallu penser. Merci beaucoup ! Bon travail! J'espère que ma réponse vous aidera.

If the type of hurt is not specified, is there a 'default' translation?

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Where is an adverb put with these expressions?

Example, greatly or often?
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Antoinette ! This is a trickier question than it looks! It depends on whether you're describing the whole action of hurting, or if you're focusing on the level of hurt you're inflicting. Indeed, remember that the expression in French is literally "to do harm/hurt to someone". 1- If it's the whole action (often, never...), then the rule is as usual with adverbs: - in simple tenses, it comes after the verb = "Tu me fais *souvent* mal. / Tu fais *souvent* du mal à ta sœur." - in compound tenses, between the auxiliary and the past participle: "Tu m'as *souvent* fait mal. / Tu as *souvent* fait du mal à ta sœur." 2- if you're focusing on the level of hurt you're inflicting, therefore qualifying "mal" = - With "faire mal", the adverb will come before "mal": "Tu m'as fait *très/extrêmement* mal." (You hurt me very much / badly.) "Il me fait *vraiment* mal." (He really hurt me.) - With "faire du mal", because here "mal" is a noun, you will use "beaucoup de" (a lot of "hurt"), etc: "Il me fait *beaucoup de* mal." (He hurts me a lot.) "Tu lui as fait *moins de* mal que lui." (You hurt her less than him.) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
Une réponse superbe! Merci.

Where is an adverb put with these expressions?

Example, greatly or often?

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Je pense qu'il n'y a pas de son pour la premiere question??

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Debra ! I've looked at this lesson, and made sure there was sound for all examples and questions :) Merci et à bientôt !

Je pense qu'il n'y a pas de son pour la premiere question??

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Getting that for you now.