How to Use the Verb ‘Faltar’ in Spanish
Faltar is one of the most used and useful verbs in Spanish. You use it in many situations, sometimes with very different meanings and sentence structures.
In general, faltar conveys an idea of lacking. This lacking, as you’ll see, can be a thing, a person, or even an action. However, this verb can behave in a weird way sometimes, so in order to properly understand its meaning you first need to change the way you think. You can then learn about the verb’s meanings, conjugation, synonyms, and useful expressions.
Are you ready?
Changing the Way You Think
To learn Spanish, or any language actually, sometimes you have to think differently. Languages don’t work in the same way. There are different languages not only because they have different words to call everything around us, but also because they’ve been structured in a different way.
A good example of that are verbs that work in a funny way from an English language perspective. The Spanish verb gustar or “to like” is the most famous example. If, for example, you like music, in English you simply say:
I like music.
However, in Spanish you have to say:
Me gusta la música.
Which literally means something like “music pleases me.”
In English, “I” is the subject, the one performing the action of “liking,” while “music” is the direct object receiving the “like.”
In Spanish, on the other hand, it works completely differently. “Music” is the subject, and “I” am the one receiving the action of “liking.” If you want to learn more about these types of verbs, read 21 Verbs Like Gustar You Should Start Using in Spanish Conversation.
The Spanish Verb Faltar
Well, the Spanish verb faltar works in the same way as gustar. Let’s say you lost a shoe. In English, you would say:
I’m missing a shoe.
While in Spanish you would say:
Me falta un zapato.
Although it might sound weird that a “shoe” is the one performing the action of “being lost” on you, that’s the way it works in Spanish.
Also, faltar is a verb with a few different meanings, and it doesn’t always behave in the same manner. Let’s learn more about this quirky verb.
4 Meanings of Faltar
The root of the verb faltar is related to the English word “fault,” which may help you to understand better how Spanish speakers use it.
1. To Lack or To Miss
This is the most common use of the verb faltar in Spanish. You can lack not only things, such as a shoe, car, or book, but also actions, such as sleeping or running. In the latter case, when what you lack is a verb in infinitive form, the translation is expressed as “to need to,” but the meaning is the same.
Let’s see some examples:
Me falta un libro.
I’m missing a book.
Le falta azúcar al café.
The coffee lacks sugar. (A more natural translation would be “This coffee needs sugar.”)
Te faltó dormir un poco más.
You needed to sleep a bit more.
Te falta practicar más tu español.
You need to practice more your Spanish.
2. To Be Absent
This one is commonly used at schools when a student doesn’t attend classes. In this case, the verb faltar doesn’t behave as a reflexive verb, as the action of “being absent” is done into something else, like “classes.” However, you can see that the meaning of lacking something (or someone) is still there.
Luis faltó a clases.
Luis didn’t come to school.
Me sentía muy mal y falté al trabajo.
I was feeling very sick and I didn’t go to work.
Esta navidad vamos a faltar.
This Christmas, we won’t be there.
3. Time Remaining
When you’re counting the minutes for something to happen you can say that falta some time for it to start. It’s the equivalent of saying how much time is left.
Faltan 5 minutos para que empiece el juego.
Just 5 minutes left before the game starts.
¿Cuánto tiempo falta para que te vayas?
How long until you leave?
4. To Break a Promise
When someone breaks a promise or doesn’t do what they said were going to do, you use the verb faltar, too.
Mi jefe faltó a su promesa de subirme el sueldo.
My boss broke his promise of giving me a raise.
Faltaste a tu palabra.
You broke your word.
Faltar Conjugation Set
Now that we’ve studied the definition and meanings of faltar in Spanish, it’s time to learn to conjugate this special verb in the present, past, and future tenses.
Present Tense Conjugation
|yo falto||I miss|
|tú faltas||you miss|
|él/ella falta||he/she misses|
|nosotros faltamos||we miss|
|ustedes faltan||you (all) miss|
|ellos/ellas faltan||they miss|
Past Tense Conjugation
|yo falté||I missed|
|tú faltaste||you missed|
|él/ella faltó||he/she missed|
|nosotros faltamos||we missed|
|ustedes faltaron||you (all) missed|
|ellos/ellas faltaron||they missed|
Future Tense Conjugation
|yo faltaré||I will miss|
|tú faltarás||you will miss|
|él/ella faltará||he/she will miss|
|nosotros faltaremos||we will miss|
|ustedes faltarán||you (all) will miss|
|ellos/ellas faltarán||they will miss|
Since faltar has different meanings, it also has several synonyms. These are some of the most common:
Escasear – to be scarce
Escasea la comida. – Falta comida.
The food is scarce.
Carecer – to lack
Carlos carece de modales. – A Carlos le faltan buenos modales.
Carlos lacks manners.
Necesitar – to need
Necesitas aprender español. – Te falta aprender español.
You need to learn Spanish.
Common Phrases Using the Spanish Verb Faltar
Last but not least, here you have three common phrases you can say that include the verb faltar:
Faltar el respeto / faltar al respeto
When someone is disrespectful to someone else, you say that le faltó al respeto. It makes sense, as you’re basically saying that someone was “lacking respect.”
Miguel le faltó el respeto al profesor.
Miguel was disrespectful to the teacher.
Discúlpame por faltarte al respeto.
I’m sorry for being disrespectful to you.
This one is complicated and counterintuitive. It’s either an expression of rejection of an absurd proposal or an emphatic affirmation of something previously said. It all depends on the situation and the tone you use when you say it.
– Entonces ¿no vas a bailar en el festival?
– Claro que no, ¡faltaría más!
– So, are you going to dance in the festival?
– Of course not!
– ¿Puedo pasar?
– Claro que sí, ¡faltaría más!
– May I come in?
– Yes, sure!
Me Haces Falta
Although in this case it doesn’t work as a verb, the idea it expresses is the same, a lack of someone.
Me haces mucha falta.
I miss you so much.
Nos hicieron falta anoche, ¿dónde estaban?
We missed you last night, where were you?
¿Me Faltó Algo?
“Did I miss anything?” We’ve covered the weird way some Spanish verbs work and the different meanings of faltar, including common conjugations, synonyms, expressions, and example sentences. Now lo único que te falta—“all you need to do”—is to practice all this new knowledge in real-life conversations in Spanish.
Sign up for a free class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala, and start using the verb faltar in Spanish today!
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