French word of the week: valoir

Welcome back to our French word of the week blog. This time we’re going to look at the verb valoir. Valoir follows an irregular conjugation in French. To hear the pronunciation of this verb, listen to the audio below:

The main translation and usage of this verb is to be worth. You might find it confusing that the translation has two parts – the English verb to be, plus the adjective worth. As this can all be conveyed with just one word in French, it might take you a moment to wrap your head around.

Here are some common examples of valoir in action. We can use this verb to talk about the worth of something in terms of its price:

Ces livres valent 150 euros à chacun. These books are worth 150 euros each.

Cette bague ne vaut rien. This ring is worthless.

Dans dix ans, ses peintures vaudront beaucoup. In ten years, her paintings will be worth a lot.

One tricky thing to grasp about this verb is that it’s most often used impersonally. It’s not always an object or person who is ‘being worth’, but something unspecified. You might notice this in the expressions below: 

valoir la peine to be worthwhile; to be worth your while

Ne pleure pas. Il ne vaut pas la peine. Don’t cry. It’s not worth it.

ça vaut le coup it’s worth it; it’s worth a shot

Vous devez visiter le château. Ça vaut vraiment le coup. You have to visit the castle. It’s really worth it.

valoir mieux… to be more worthwhile to…; to be best/better to…

Il vaut mieux partir avant minuit. We’d better leave before midnight.

Finally, the verb has some other, quite distinct translations which feel further away from the concept of worth. You might not see these too often, but it might be useful to be aware of them:

Ces règles valent pour tout le monde. These rules apply to everyone.

valoir quelque chose à quelqu’un to earn somebody something; to cause somebody something

Je n’habite plus avec lui. Il m’a valu des gros problèmes financiers. I don’t live with him anymore. He caused me some big problems with money.

faire valoir ses droits to exercise your rights

Keep coming back to learn about our latest French word every week. It’s definitely worth checking out our blogs and Easy Learning French Grammar pages to improve your language skills.

Written by Holly Tarbet, freelance copywriter and editor.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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