As you may know very well, piacere is a very tricky verb, one of those Italian verbs that seem so easy yet cause lots of problems.
This is why last month I wrote a blog post explaining how to use piacere and some other similar verbs. Actually, the post was mainly focused on piacere and some people asked me if I could focus a bit more on the other verbs working in the same way.
There are a handful of Italian verbs working like piacere, the most common of which are: bastare, mancare, servire, interessare, sembrare, restare/rimanere, and dispiacere. Actually, one of the verbs you’ll need the most is mancare and this is why I wanted to focus on this one specifically.
The structure of this post is very similar to the one I used for piacere because I thought it makes it easier to understand it and you can always refer back and forth to see how they both work and you can use the similarities between these two verbs to understand them both better.
So, let’s see how to use the verb mancare in Italian.
First of all, just like piacere, it works exactly the opposite than in English. The Italian verb mancare means ‘to miss’ but it works in a different way. In English, the verb ‘to miss’ agrees with the subject, which is the person that misses someone or something. In Italian, instead, the verb agrees with the object, which is the thing (or person) that someone misses.
To make things a bit more complicated, mancare can be intransitive or transitive. As you may know very well, a transitive verb is a verb that only makes sense if it exerts its action on an object. An intransitive verb can still make sense if there is no object. Some verbs may be used both ways and this is the case of mancare. Actually, some linguists say that using mancare as a transitive verb is wrong but we’ll get there later.
Let’s first see how the verb mancare works as an intransitive verb. Just like piacere, it has an impersonal and a personal form.
This is the most common form of mancare, which is used to express the fact that someone misses somebody or something. However, just like what we have seen for piacere, in Italian we don’t say that someone misses somebody or something but that somebody or something is missed by somebody else. So, the object of missing is the subject of the phrase. It can be placed at the beginning or at the end of the sentence and the verb agrees with it:
A Paola manca tanto la Sicilia = Paola misses Sicily a lot
La Sicilia manca tanto a Paola = Paola misses Sicily a lot
The Italian verb mancare means ‘to miss’, but it is formed in a different way than in English: what in English is the subject in Italian is the indirect object, while what or whom somebody misses is the subject of the phrase and agrees with the verb.
A Francesca mancano i suoi fratelli = Francesca misses her brothers
If the subject is singular, the verb is singular, if it is plural, the verb is plural.
A Giovanna manca il mare = Giovanna misses the sea
-> mare is singular, so the verb is singular
Ai professori mancano gli esami = The professors miss the exams
-> esami is plural, so the verb is plural
Unlike in English, the thing that one likes is always preceded by the definite article.
A mia mamma manca IL caffè della mattina = My mom misses her morning coffee
Mi manca tanto LA scuola = I really miss school
When the subject is not a noun but an action expressed by an infinite verb or by an expression, mancare is in the third person singular:
A mio fratello manca tanto andare al mare = My brother misses going to the beach
-> andare al mare is the subject, so the verb is singular
A mia nonna manca che Paola la aiuti = My grandma misses the fact that Paola helps her
-> che Paola la aiuti is the subject, so the verb is singular
A me manca guidare – A me mancano le auto sportive
A te manca leggere libri – A te mancano le librerie
A lui manca fare sport – A lui mancano le palestre
A lei manca cucinare i dolci – A lei mancano i libri di cucina
A noi manca andare al mare – A noi mancano le spiagge bianche
A voi manca stare a casa – A voi mancano le cene in famiglia
A loro manca la Tv – A loro mancano i programmi televisivi
When the indirect object is a pronoun, it can be tonic (a me, a te, etc.) or atonic (mi, ti, etc):
A me manca il mare / Mi manca il mare = I miss the sea
A lui mancano i suoi amici / Gli mancano i suoi amici = He misses his friends
Here is the full conjugation:
A me manca/mancano – Mi manca/mancano
A te manca/mancano – Ti manca/mancano
A lui manca/mancano – Gli manca/mancano
A lei manca/mancano – Le manca/mancano
A noi manca/mancano – Ci manca/mancano
A voi manca/mancano – Vi manca/mancano
A loro manca/mancano- Gli manca/mancano
To make a negative phrase, you only need to add NON before the pronoun, if you use an atonic pronoun (mi, ti, etc.), or before the verb, if you use a tonic pronoun (a me, a te, etc.).
Non mi manca la scuola = I don’t miss school
A Barbara non manca studiare matematica = Barbara doesn’t miss studying grammar
All the above examples refer to the main meaning of mancare, which is that feeling of missing the presence of someone or something. But it can also have another meaning, which is ‘not to have something, to find out the absence of something’.
Here are some examples:
Non posso andare a fare la spesa perché mi manca il portafoglio – I can’t go buy groceries because I don’t have my wallet
Non posso uscire perché mi mancano i soldi per pagare la cena – I can’t go out because I don’t have money to pay dinner
Stavo per uscire quando mi sono accorta che mi mancavano guanti e cappello – I was about to go out when I realized that I didn’t have gloves and hat
This form is used to express the fact that someone is missed by somebody else. The subject is the person that is missed: io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro, etc. The verb agrees with the subject and it is fully conjugated and the indirect object is the person is missing somebody else: a me, a Mario, a qualcuno, a tutti etc.
Io manco a Carla = Carla misses me
Tu manchi a tutti = Everybody misses you
Lui manca a mia sorella = My sister misses him
Lei manca a Massimo = Massimo misses her
Noi manchiamo alla gente = People miss us
Voi mancate a mia nonna = My grandma misses you
Loro mancano alla maestra = The teacher misses them
As we said at the beginning of this post, mancare can also be transitive. Some grammar experts – and some dictionaries too – say that using mancare as a transitive verb is an improper use of the verb. However, it is very common to hear it in spoken language and therefore I have decided to include it here as well.
Mancare, when transitive, means ‘to fail to hit a target or a goal or to fail to hear, notice, or understand’. It can also mean ‘to miss an opportunity’. Here are some examples:
Quel calciatore è famoso, ma manca sempre la rete e non fa mai gol – That football player is famous but he always misses the net and never scores
Non mi piace giocare a bowling perché manco sempre i birilli – I don’t like bowling because I always miss the pins
Il treno è arrivato in ritardo e io ho mancato l’appuntamento – The train was late and I missed the appointment
Hai sentito cos’ha detto la tv? No, l’ho mancato – Have you heard what they said on TV? No, I’ve missed it
Stavo guardando il telefono e ho mancato l’uscita giusta – I was watching my phone and I’ve missed the right exit
The past participle of mancare is mancato and can be used to mean dead (usually, it is gentler than using the verb morire):
mia nonna è mancata ieri sera: my grandma passed away last night
quando è mancata la mia amica Jane, è stata una tragedia: it was a tragedy when Jane passed away
I really hope this post was useful to understand how to use the verb mancare in Italian, please leave a comment if you have questions!
As I always do with posts about the Italian language, I have created a downloadable pdf file for you to keep for future reference. You will find it in Your Italian Toolbox, the private page on my site where I upload all language learning materials, under the section Grammar. If can access the page by simply subscribing to my newsletter.
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