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In expressions like J'ai faim, why is it correct to augment it by saying “J'ai très faim” instead of “J'ai beaucoup de faim”?

I mean, if the French way of saying I'm hungry is “I have hunger”, shouldn't it be embellished as “I have a lot of hunger”, rather than “I have very hunger”? That's assuming we translate très as very, which may not be entirely accurate, but is what I've always been told.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Le TLF nous dit que c'est une forme impropre, mais la cite en effet.

E. − [Employé improprement dans une locution verbale formée d'un auxiliaire ou d'un verbe support (avoir, être, faire, prendre…) et d'un substantif abstrait désignant des « sensations ou des sentiments à l'état brut: faim, soif, froid, chaud, sommeil, mal, peur, envie, plaisir, honte, hâte… » (G. Moignet, op. cit., p. 154); emploi critiqué] Un jour, elle se retrouva dans son lit, bien faible, ayant très faim (A. France, Jocaste, 1879, p. 74). Il faut que nous fassions très attention, il faut que nous soyons très prudents (Guitry, Veilleur, 1911, iii, p. 19).

Et elle est si courante (à l'oral notamment, mais même à l'écrit) qu'elle ne choquera personne, hormis peut-être dans les contextes les plus formels.

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In short, it's actually an improper usage of très, but the usage is extremely common so that nobody will consider it incorrect. Funnily enough, the link doesn't say what the proper form would be. J'ai beaucoup de faim is certainly incorrect, so you'd have to use J'ai une grande faim or J'ai grand-faim (for extra pedantic points) Anyway, go eat something already. – Joubarc Apr 4 '13 at 13:18
@Joubarc: Bloody crutial detail, isn't it rather grand'faim? – Stéphane Gimenez Apr 4 '13 at 22:31
I thought so too, but nope. The TLFi mentions explicitely grand-faim and also says a few things about it in the ethymology section, including "Ces loc. étaient écrites, à tort, avec une apostrophe comme s'il s'agissait d'une élision." – Joubarc Apr 5 '13 at 7:00
And speaking of bloody details, it's crucial, not crutial ;-) (and you may want to be careful with the usage of bloody too, by the way) – Joubarc Apr 5 '13 at 7:03
Bloody isn't really considered obscene. It's very mild. Usage tends to be even higher in Ireland (more Catholic) than the U.K. I think Stéphane's usage could be interpreted as wishing to emphasize the importance of the detail in an informal, perhaps jocular way. – Micromégas Apr 5 '13 at 16:02

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