Using the Spanish Word 'Faltar'

Verb Usually Used To Indicate Lack of Existence or Sufficiency

Río San Pedro, Guatemala
Hay 10 secretos que te faltarán saber de Guatemala. (There are 10 secrets you will need to know about Guatemala.).

Fernando Reyes Palencia/Creative Commons.

Faltar carries with it the idea of lacking. But it is used in a variety of ways where "to lack" isn't the best translation. Here are some of its most common uses:

Faltar To Indicate Absence or Nonexistence

Possible translations of faltar include "to be absent" and "to be missing" as well as a simple statement of nonexistence:

  • A la reunión faltaron los representantes de Ecuador. (The representatives of Ecuador were absent from the meeting. The representatives of Ecuador were not at the meeting.)
  • La mujer faltaba de su hogar desde hace cuatro días y era buscada intensamente por sus familiares. (The woman was missing from her home since four days ago and was intensively searched for by her relatives.)
  • El martes de la semana pasada, Sabrina faltó a la escuela sin avisar a sus padres. (On Tuesday of last week, Sabrina missed school without telling her parents.)

Faltar With Indirect Pronouns

In many situations, faltar is used with an indirect-object pronoun to state who or what is affected by the lack or absence of something. In this usage, faltar functions much like gustar. The indirect-object pronoun is in boldface in the following examples. Although "lack" can almost always be used in translation, other possibilities include "need," "to be short" and so on. As is the case with gustar, the noun represented by the indirect-object pronoun often serves as the subject of the sentence in translation.

  • A esta receta le falta un ingrediente principal. (This recipe lacks a main ingredient.)
  • Nos faltan dos personas para reservar el cuarto de hotel. (We need two more people to reserve the hotel room.)
  • A este pobre le falta una pierna. (This poor man is missing a leg.)
  • Sólo me falta el teléfono. (I'm missing only my telephone. I have everything I need except for my telephone.)
  • ¿Cuántos puntos me faltan para llegar al nivel segundo? (How many points do I need to arrive at the second level?)
  • Te falta estudiarlo un poco más. (You need to study it a little more.)
  • Hay 10 secretos que te faltarán saber de Guatemala. (There are 10 secrets you will need to know about Guatemala.)
  • Me falta agua en el radiador. (I need water in the radiator.)

Faltar To Indicate What Remains

Somewhat paradoxically for English speakers, faltar is often used to indicate what remains in anticipation of an event or situation. The construction used in these instances typically is "optional pronoun + faltar + what remains + para + the goal."

  • Faltan cinco días para Navidad. (Five days remain until Christmas. There are five days to go until Christmas.)
  • Faltaban dos segundos para terminar el juego. (There were two seconds to go to end the game.)
  • Te faltan 100 pesos para comprarlo. (You need 100 pesos more to buy it.)
  • A él le faltaban tres horas para la medianoche. (He had three hours remaining until midnight.)

Faltar A To Indicate Lack of Heed

The phrase faltar a can be used to indicate the lack of attention or respect to the object of the preposition a.

  • Es una promesa, ¡y nunca falto a mis promesas! (That's a promise, and I never break my promises!)
  • Es tonto pensar que ella faltaría a un evento como ese. (It's silly to think that she would not attend an event such as that.)
  • La escritora jamás faltaba a las reuniones de lunes. (The writer never missed the Monday meetings.)

Expressions Using Faltar

Expressions and phrases that use faltar include:

  • Faltar al respeto, to be disrespectful.
  • ¡Lo que faltaba! It's all I needed!
  • ¡No faltaría más! Of course! Obviously! Don't mention it!
  • Faltar a la verdad, to be dishonest.
  • Faltar tiempo, to be short of time.

Conjugation of Faltar

Faltar is conjugated regularly, following the pattern of hablar.

Etymology of Faltar

As you might have guessed, is etymologically related to the English word "fault." Both "fault" and faltar come from the Latin verb fallere, which meant to deceive or disappoint. Other Spanish words derived from fallere include fallar (to fail or disappoint), falla (defect), and falso (false). Related English words include "fail," "failure," and "false."

Key Takeaways

  • Faltar typically is used to state that something is missing, lacking, nonexistent, or not available.
  • An indirect object can be used to indicate who is affected by the lack or absence.
  • Faltar is used much more flexibility than "lack" and other English equivalents, so a wide variety of translations are possible depending on the context.