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In (Canadian?) French, we have an expression, "j'ai envie" (litteraly: I want), which, when used without any subject, means that the speaker needs to use a toilet, either to urinate or defecate. It is somewhat informal; you would prefer saying "I need to use the washrooms" rather than that in a very formal context, but it would still be accepted. Is there any such expression in English? What is the most popular way to express one's need to use a toilet?

I am specifically looking to translate the following:

Quand je mange des produits laitiers, ça me donne envie

(When I eat dairy products, [I need to use the washroom])

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A fairly common way in spoken American English is "(I) gotta go" or, somewhat less informally, "I hafta go", but that refers to an immediate need, not to a conditional need like the one in your French phrase. Probably "I need to go" might work, but since go has so many other meanings, it's hard to make sure it conveys precisely the intention you're seeking. – John Lawler May 14 '12 at 0:25
@JohnLawler oh but this looks a lot like what I'm looking for. It's similar to the French expression, in that the word "want" has many meaning, but if you don't precise, it usually means that. You should post this as an answer. – Xeon06 May 14 '12 at 0:40
Related Toilet, lavatory, or loo for polite society. I was going to suggest this was a duplicate, but I think this question is specifically looking for something more specifically vague and euphemistic than "I need to use the loo." I also think John Lawler has the correct answer. – Kit Z. Fox May 14 '12 at 0:47
Perhaps the best translation of "Quand je mange des produits laitiers, ça me donne envie" is "I am lactose intolerant." – J.R. May 14 '12 at 2:53
up vote 1 down vote accepted

"To have to go" is the most direct translation of "avoir envie" as a informal/colloquial euphemism for the need to eliminate. It's short for "to have to go to the [bathroom/facilities/john/washroom/head/toilet/loo/outhouse/lavatory/etc.]". It's widely used and understood, but not right for the most polite company.

Quand je mange des produits laitiers, ça me donne envie.

would generally translate as

Whenever I eat dairy products, it makes me have to go.

Although that particular dependent when-clause construction is not as natural in English as it is in French. In English, So you might consider restating to something like:

Dairy products make me have to go.

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In everyday conversation, I would probably say it like this:

Whenever I eat dairy products, I have to go to the bathroom.

Have to go could be changed to need to use; bathroom could be changed to restroom. I'd probably avoid the word toilet, although it'd be perfectly grammatical, and everyone would know what I meant. Washroom is an acceptable euphamism.

Typically, the location where you take care of such business is referred to as the bathroom when it's in your home, and a restroom (or the men's room/ladies' room) when it's in a public establishment.

If you wanted to be a bit more informal, and allude to a pun, you could say:

Whenever I eat dairy products, I need to run to the bathroom.

There are countless variations, I'm sure. Even the expression use the loo, while relatively uncommon in the U.S., is widely-understood; such lesser-used expressions are sometimes used to make the words sound more delicate.

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