Nous n'avons plus qu'à prier pour que ce conflit ne se change pas en véritable guerre.

As a side note:

  • n'avoir plus à” means “no longer have to


  • n'avoir qu'à” means "only have to”.

As similar as they are in construction, their meanings are polar opposites. Which is why the combination of the two expressions stumps me.

1 Answer 1


N'avoir plus qu'à (prier) means The only thing left to do is (praying) / Have nothing left to do but to (pray).

Edit: your sentence would become something like : The only thing left for us to do is praying for this conflict not to grow into an actual war.


Ne pas avoir (de bonbons) : Not having (candies)

Ne plus avoir (de bonbons) : No longer having (candies)

N'avoir que (des bonbons): Having nothing but (candies).

Ne plus avoir que (des bonbons): Have nothing left but (candies)

If you're not familiar with infinitive sentences in French, here are the conjugated ones:

Je n'ai pas de bonbons.

Je n'ai plus de bonbons.

Je n'ai que des bonbons.

Je n'ai plus que des bonbons.

This is the construction with nouns, but it's the same thing with verbes, using à + VERBE. Note that the meaning of avoir à becomes the English of have to, that's why I say it's easy.

Ne pas avoir à (repasser): Not having to (iron).

Ne plus avoir à (repasser): No longer having to (iron).

[tricky one] N'avoir qu'à (repasser): Just/Only having to (iron).
/!\ This is used a lot when giving some piece of advice, as in "You just have to iron it / You should just iron it" --> "Tu n'as qu'à le repasser". You can also speak about yourself in this fashion "Je n'ai qu'à le repasser"

N'avoir plus qu'à (repasser): Having nothing left to do but to (iron)

  • Would it be incorrect to say "We can only pray ..."? Thanks. Commented May 31, 2016 at 5:01
  • 1
    @LUNA If you say "We can only pray..."(Nous pouvons seulement prier pour...) you are losing the idea that you have ran out of possibilities that is conveyed by the French sentence. I'm gonna edit the answer for everyone to understand, but "N'avoir plus que quelque chose" means that you had more, but only have this now. In your sentence, the last thing you have is praying. As of why we use à with the verb... I'm going to have this native answer... "because it's like this :D". I don't really know the rule Commented May 31, 2016 at 5:10
  • @LUNA answer updated :) Commented May 31, 2016 at 5:21
  • Is the construction « avoir à faire qqch » preferred over « devoir » idiomatically ? Commented May 31, 2016 at 10:18
  • Your question is hurting my brain so hard! I honestly think we do not use "avoir à faire qqch" at all. But we do use "avoir qqch à faire"(having something to do), "ne pas avoir qqch à faire"(not having something to do) and "ne pas avoir à faire qqch"(not having to do something)... so I'd say "devoir faire qqch" instead and that "avoir à faire qqch" isn't proper French ( I mean, the infinitive sentence sounds great but conjugated it sounds awful). I hope I answered your question... Commented May 31, 2016 at 11:06

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