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

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.


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.


counter example


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


Q&A Forum 4 questions, 5 answers

CrystalMaidenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Difference between this and verb avec difficulté?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

 

Difference between this and verb avec difficulté?

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SueC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

to struggle physically

how would you then say to struggle physically . i struggled to climb the hill
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
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 !

to struggle physically

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

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JohnB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour John ! Yes, your sentence works in French ! Bonne journée !

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.

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SueC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

why not lutter avec

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
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
SueC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thank you It is really helpful with the example

why not lutter avec

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Getting that for you now.