I miss you, or do you miss me?
Get ready for some brain juggling on the verb to miss! Can you spot the difference in sentence construction between:
Tu me manques and I miss you?
Miss and manquer: a question of personal pronouns
Indeed, in English “I” does 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. English uses a direct object (Q: Who do I miss? A: You) while French needs a preposition (Q: Who is missing “from me”? A: You are.).
French uses 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.
Tu me manques – ta voix me manque
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.
Hint: Start the French sentence with the last word of your English sentence. Find the subject or first word of your English sentence and then add the right pronoun me, te, lui, nous, vous, or leur.
I miss you – TU me manques.
I miss your voice – TA VOIX me manque.
Examples: missing something
We miss you becomes Tu nous manques, a kind of
You are missing from us.. After
the initial inversion, figure out the rest by asking « WHO or WHAT misses X ? »
I miss chocolate – start your sentence with chocolate (le chocolat), then choose who is miserably missing the chocolate – Le chocolat me manque. [Who misses chocolate ? I do.]
They miss chocolate – start with chocolate (le chocolat) and add leur – Le chocolat leur manque. [Who misses chocolate ? They do.]
Karin misses chocolate – Who misses chocolate? Use à if it is a noun: Le chocolat manque à Karin, or Le chocolat suisse lui manque.
When something is missing – expressing need
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. The me is understood from context, so you can even leave it out.
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 expresses need! This il construction is an impersonal, third-person form, not a person. We use it a lot when making a list. 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 – 2 more examples
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 is a set expression and means someone has a screw loose, has lost their marbles or is nuts, with abnormal or crazy behavior.
Interested in French conversation? Book a free appointment and meet your teacher(s) online and see if you want to start “l’aventure Langues et Plus”. (Say the “s” in “plus” by the way, because it means “more” rather than “no more” in this case!)