The verb “to miss” has several meanings in English:
- An idea of failure: to miss the train
- An emotion: I miss you/ I miss doing something
The first idea is not complicated to translate in English since it’s the same word order. It’s the second use of “to miss” which confuses French students.
Let me explain them.
To Miss the Train in French
If you want to use “miss” in the idea that you didn’t succeed to do something (“I missed the train”), it’s more common to use the verb “rater” in French, but you can use “manquer” as well. For this meaning, the construction is the same as in English:
- “J’ai manqué (raté) le train.”
We also have an impersonal expression which uses the verb “manquer”: “il manque”, meaning “X is missing (from…)”. The “il” doesn’t refer to anyone, it’s like an expression.
- “Il manque 10 euros dans la caisse” (10 Euros are missing from the cash register).
This is simple enough.
So now let’s see what happens with “manquer” when it means “to miss” emotionally.
The key to using “manquer” in the sense of missing someone emotionally correctly is to start with the correct pronoun.
If you follow these simple 3 steps, you will conquer the verb to miss in French.
Manquer / To Miss in French Made Easy
Step 1 – Modify your English sentence
The first step concerns your English sentence. You need to switch it around IN ENGLISH.
When you want to say “Paul misses me,” turn your sentence around: “I am being missed by Paul”.
Then start your French sentence with that subject pronoun : “Je manque à Paul”.
- You miss your country = Your country is being missed by you
Votre pays vous manque / Ton pays te manque.
- She missed him = He was being missed by her
Il lui manquait.
- His mother misses her dog = Her dog is being missed by his mother
Son chien manque à sa mère.
Note, this doesn’t sound good in French. Chances are that we’d introduce a pronoun in there; son chien lui manque.
Once you do the switch, it will take care of the major problem of translation.
“Schwek” in the comment section below said his French teachers told his students to “to always put the most important person i.e. the person being missed at the beginning”. It’s a nice way to put it.
Step 2 – Choose the Correct Pronoun
If you are using pronouns, the first one is going to be a subject pronoun: je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles.
The second one is going to be an indirect object pronoun ; me, te, lui (for him and her and it), nous, vous, and leur (both of them being feminine and masculine).
It will never be le, la, l’ or les.
- I miss you – you are being missed by me
You = either tu or vous
by me = me
Vous me manquez. Tu me manques.
- You miss me – I am being missed by you
I = je
by you = either te or vous
Je vous manque. Je te manque.
If you are using nouns, translate the “by” with an à (maybe this à will contract with an article – au, aux… watch out).
- The tourists miss the sun = The sun is being missed by the tourists = le soleil manque aux touristes.
Step 3 – Make the Verb Agreement With the Subject – the First Noun or Pronoun
I hear that mistake often: ” je vous manquez“.
Make sure “manquer” agrees with the first pronoun or noun, NOT the one just before the verb… So it should be “Je vous manque.” (You miss me)
If your verb is in the negative, the ne goes between the 2 pronouns: “je ne vous manque pas.” (You don’t miss me)
Voilà, using “to miss” in French is not that complicated, but it is counter intuitive for an English speaker. So you need a method that is clear, and that you know you can trust. Hopefully this will do the trick.
Now, let’s take things further.
To Miss in an Infinitive Construction
If you are using an infinitive construction, the indirect object pronoun goes after the conjugated verb.
- Je vais lui manquer – He is going to miss me.
More Examples of “To Miss” in French
These sentences were made by one of my students after working with this explanation – thank you Ann for sharing them!
- I miss you, you are being missed by me: Tu me manques.
- You miss me, I am being missed by you: Je te manque.
- He misses me, I am being missed by him: je lui manque.
- I miss him, he is being missed by me: Il me manque.
- We miss them, they are being missed by us: ils nous manquent.
- She misses us, we are being missed by her: nous lui manquons.
- They miss us, we are being missed by them: nous leur manquons.
- She will miss us, we are going to be missed by her: nous allons lui manquer.
- I missed him, he was being missed by me: il me manquait – il m’a manqué.
- You will miss me, I am going to be missed by you: je vais te manquer.
- I am not going to miss you, you are not going to be missed by me: tu ne vas pas me manquer/ vous n’allez pas me manquer.