There are two sentences that express the necessity of you doing something:

Il te faut faire la vaisselle.

Il faut que tu fasses la vaisselle.

However, in the first sentence it uses the indicative while the second one uses the subjunctive. I read the question regarding "il faut ~" and "il faut qu'on ~", and the accepted answer said the following:

The first sentence is global, in general is good to workout, while the second is specific to the persons.

But this sentence is specific to the person, 2nd-person singular. So it won't be global (if it is global there is no need to add te, isn't there?).

So what is the difference between these two sentences?

3 Answers 3


Il faut que tu fasses la vaisselle is the standard way to say to someone that he needs to do the dishes. It can be either a direct order or strong advice (do it now) or just used to state a rule.

Il te faut faire la vaisselle is a rare way to say the same. It sounds literary, and is more expected in a book than in a casual conversation. It might also be heard as a regionalism in Southern France, a reminiscence of the occitan te cal faire la vaissèla

Here is an example of this regionalism, posted on a forum by someone from the Hérault (Occitanie):

comme disait lefab, il te faut choisir qu'elle couleur tu préfere et aprés seulement on pourra t'aider parce que la je peut t'en proposé des centaines. (original spelling and grammar untouched)

Il faut faire la vaisselle is a generic way to say doing the dishes is required.

  • Good answer but the example is full of spelling mistakes and a bit harsh on the eye... Mar 6, 2019 at 6:28
  • @JacquesGaudin It is indeed. I followed the rule of leaving the quotes untouched. bibl.ulaval.ca/infosphere/sciences_humaines/evaciter2.html
    – jlliagre
    Mar 6, 2019 at 6:55
  • Thanks. Do you mean that the exact sentence (faire la vaisselle) is rare in il te faut structure or il te faut structure itself is rare?
    – Blaszard
    Mar 6, 2019 at 14:13
  • 2
    Il te faut + VERB is rare.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 6, 2019 at 14:15
  • "original spelling and grammar untouched" : sic est traditionnellement utilisé pour dire ça (même si on dirait que de nos jours les gens l'utilisent plus pour indiquer leur étonnement/indignation).
    – XouDo
    Sep 19, 2022 at 10:31

I am not a native speaker but I will try to answer. Consider the following ways to express obligation:

Il nous faut partir.

Nous devons partir.

Il faut que nous partions.

The 2 and 3 are equivalent. The 1 is equivalent for the sense, but more stylish if not literary (but grammatically perfect). Some natives find it no colloquial French at all and even consider it snobby.

See the question here.

Therefore for your particular case:

Il faut que tu fasses la vaisselle=Tu dois faire la vaisselle.

On the contrary

Il te faut faire la vaisselle.

is not considered colloquial French (despite being grammatically impeccable).


In this construction, « il te faut » is colloquial, barely acceptable ; on top of communicating the usual idea of obligation in "il faut que ", it is meant to attenuate somewhat the idea of slight forebidingness and oppressiveness that go with telling people their obligations. Nevertheless, it might be asked whether this construction which is standard for the meaning of « falloir » as « avoir » is not issued from this usage.

  • Il te faut une carte annuelle pour ton bus scolaire. (normal speech, not colloquial)
  • Il te faut des lunettes de soleil lorsque tu est dehors, les ultraviolets détruisent la vue.
  • Il te faut un lave-vaisselle.

No, in the first sentence the mode « indicatif » is used only for « falloir » (faut) ; then the mode used is the infinitive (faire), and that mode operates as the subjonctive mode : the action is being refered to generically, not as taking place or having been carried out, and so on.

The two sentences are used to speak generally ; the fact that « te » is used is a matter of register ; as said, the register is quite colloquial ; when used "globally" the idea of attenuation has no reality. The use of the second person singular when expressing what people do is equivalent to the use of the second person plural, just as with the use of « you » in English ;

  • Le samedi et le dimanche tu ne travail pas dans leur pays, ici tu travaille même le dimanche matin.
    In their country you don't work on saturdays and sundays, here you work even on sunday morning.

  • Dans ce camp de vacances il te faut faire la vaisselle et les lits, mais le prix que tu paye pour le mois est plus intéressant.
    In this summer camp you have to do the dishes and make your bed, but the price per month is cheaper.

The Following ngram shows "il te faut" is not used as much as "il faut que tu" ; in particular it is not used with "faire" and we find instead "il faut que tu fasses".

  • 3
    Huh ?? il te faut faire la vaisselle is colloquial ?!
    – jlliagre
    Mar 5, 2019 at 20:18
  • @jlliagre Well, that's how I perceive it ; I wouldn't say it personnally ; all I could say is "Il faut que tu fasses la vaisselle" ; it is a fact that it is used little in comparison, see the ngram in my answer ; nevertheless, it is possible this is particular to my family, my readings, and so on.
    – LPH
    Mar 5, 2019 at 20:25
  • As I said I I am not a native speaker. But I have hardly ever heard a natif use Il me faut/il te faut, etc. Quite the contrary. Colloquially they use more tournures like faut que j'aille...
    – Dimitris
    Mar 5, 2019 at 20:53
  • I wonder how trustful is ngram for everyday french.
    – Dimitris
    Mar 5, 2019 at 20:54
  • @dimitris I suppose it depends on the social strata you sample ; my parents never would use it and it seem I never met with it in my readings ; however, at the same time I' ve heard it in the mouth of people whose French tended to be slack, wherefrom this impression of mine the form is rather colloquial ; I believe that ngram have to be representative of what is found in the books (from a pure logical point of view), ans as all the spoken language tends to be also well represented in books, specially nowadays (try an ngram for « connard »), there is no reason to doubt them for anything.
    – LPH
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:24

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