Avoir du mal à / avec = To have trouble, to struggle to / with

Look at these sentences:

J'ai du mal à respecter mon régime.
I struggle to stick to my diet.

Ils ont toujours du mal à finir leur repas.
They always struggle to finish their meal.

Tu as du mal avec cet exercice de maths.
You're having trouble with this math exercise.

Martin avait du mal avec la science à l'école.
Martin used to struggle with science at school.

To express to struggle to [do something], to have trouble [doing something], in French, you use the idiomatic expression avoir du mal à + [infinitive].

You can also use avoir du mal avec + [noun] in order to say to struggle with [something], to have trouble/difficulty with [something]

The expression Avoir du mal never means to hurt, to ache nor can be used in the sense of fighting for [something].

Les femmes se battent pour leurs droits tous les jours.
Women struggle for their rights every day.

 

Also not to be confused with Avoir mal (à) = To be in pain, to hurt somewhere

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Martin avait du mal avec la science à l'école.
Martin used to struggle with science at school.


Ils ont toujours du mal à finir leur repas.
They always struggle to finish their meal.


J'ai du mal à respecter mon régime.
I struggle to stick to my diet.


Tu as du mal avec cet exercice de maths.
You're having trouble with this math exercise.


counter example


Les femmes se battent pour leurs droits tous les jours.
Women struggle for their rights every day.


Q&A

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

3 May 2018

1 reply

Difference between this and verb avec difficulté?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

6 May 2018

6/05/18

Hi CrystalMaiden,


'Avoir des difficultés à faire quelquechose' is more formal, used in medical terms.


'Avoir du mal...' is more idiomatic and used widely by the French in normal speech.


Hope this helps!


 

sue

Kwiziq community member

14 April 2017

1 reply

to struggle physically

how would you then say to struggle physically . i struggled to climb the hill

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 April 2017

18/04/17

Bonjour Sue !

I completely how our formulation was confusing here.
What I meant was "avoir du mal à" never mean "to struggle" in the sense of "fight".
Thanks to you, I've now clarified this sentence and added a counter example as well.

As for the sentence you mentioned, you would indeed say:
"J'ai du mal à monter la colline."

Merci et à bientôt !

John

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2017

1 reply

Without Struggle?

Is there a way I can use this to mean without struggle? For example, I would like to have a conversation in french without struggle: je voudrais avoir une conversation francaise sans avoir du mal. Does that work? Merci.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

7 April 2017

7/04/17

Bonjour John !

Yes, your sentence works in French !

Bonne journée !

sue

Kwiziq community member

3 September 2016

2 replies

why not lutter avec

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 September 2016

9/09/16

Bonjour Sue,

The verb "lutter contre" refers more to "fighting " than struggling with it in usage.

e.g. "Je lutte contre le cancer." = I'm fighting cancer

sue

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2016

10/09/16

Thank you
It is really helpful with the example

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