Get ready for some brain juggling on the verb to miss! Can you spot the difference if I write:
Tu me manques and in your gallant manner, you reply, I miss you, too, Maude.
Inversion and personal pronouns
Indeed, in English “I” do the missing, while in French, “you” are “missing” from me. This is because in French, manquer expresses lack and insufficiency. It is about not having enough. In English to miss refers to absence and lack of presence in general. Let’s say you’ve painted a bouquet of flowers, and at the end, you think, Il manque du rouge because there isn’t enough (of the color) red. In English we’d say, It needs more red, or It is missing some red, and not Red is missing, or There is a lack of red.
As a result, sentence construction changes, with a direct object in English (Who do I miss? You) and requiring a preposition in French (Who is missing “from me”? You are.). French solves this by using the personal pronouns me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur before the verb to show who is doing the missing. English uses me, you, her, him, it, us, and them to show who is being missed.
Is there an easier way to explain this? (my eyes are crossing)
Soon, it will roll off your tongue (or keyboard) after you’ve embarrassed yourself a few times by saying how much Swiss chocolate misses you. Here’s how: Start the French sentence with the last word of your English sentence. Find the subject or first word of your English sentence and put the right pronoun me, te, lui, nous, vous, or leur in second place.
I miss you – TU me manques.
I miss your voice – TA VOIX me manque.
We miss you becomes Tu nous manques, a kind of inversion:
You are missing from us.. After the initial inversion, figure out the rest by asking « WHO or WHAT misses X ? »
I miss chocolate – invert chocolate by placing it as the first word of the sentence, and choose who is miserably missing the chocolate – Le chocolat me manque. [Who misses chocolate ? I do.]
They miss chocolate – invert chocolate and add leur – Le chocolat leur manque. [Who misses chocolate ? They do.]
Karin misses chocolate – when the answer to Who misses chocolate is not a pronoun, use à… Le chocolat manque à Karin
Something is missing…
Il (me) manque du pain – I need bread, technically speaking, bread is missing (from my house), there any, we don’t have any bread, we ran out of bread, etc.
Le pain me manque is what you might say if you move to a country that doesn’t have the fantastic bakeries you’ll easily find in France and Switzerland. You’re missing French bread.
Il me manque, whereas il lis an impersonal third person pronoun and not a man… is useful to make strings of information or lists. Let’s say you have already ordered several vegetables at the market and the salesperson asks, “Ca sera tout?” (Will that be all), do reply, “Non, il me manque des carottes et de la salade.” That means that a couple of items on your shopping list are missing from your order.
Il me manque 3 mètres de parquet means you are missing 3 yards of floorboards and would like to buy enough to cover that area.
Il lui manque une case means someone has a screw loose, has lost their marbles or is nuts, with abnormal or crazy behavior.