Hacer Falta – My Spanish Phrase Of The Day 10/30/2015

Hello Spanish Lovers!

My Spanish verb phrase of the day is hacer falta.

Hacer falta means to need; to be necessary; to miss.

Here is an example:

Me hace falta un suetér caliente para este clima. (I need a warm sweater in this climate.)

Me hace falta un suéter caliente.

The sentence structure required by hacer falta is quite different than what you may be used to.  You may need to take a deep breath and center yourself before you read on.  If you are a native English speaker, things are going to get a little challenging.

The Spanish do not say: I need a warm sweater in this climate.  What they do say is: A warm sweater is necessary for me in this climate.  It sounds so awkward in English, doesn’t it?  The passive voice is being used here.  If we wanted to use the passive voice in English, we might say: A good sweater is necessary for me to stay warm in this climate.  Way too complicated, don’t you think?

But, let’s look at the English translation of this particular sentence: A warm sweater is necessary for me.

Subject = a warm sweater

Verb ( in the passive voice) = is necessary

Indirect Object = (for) me

Notice that this indirect object occurs in a prepositional phrase = (for me)

Now, let’s break down the grammatical components of this sentence in Spanish: Me hace falta un suéter caliente.

The first thing that you have to know is that the verb hacer in the grammatical construction hacer falta is used in the third person.  In this case, it is the third person singular, which is hace.

The second thing that you need to know is that hacer falta absolutely requires an indirect object pronoun. Very often, with this verb phrase, the sentence will start with the indirect object pronoun.

Indirect object pronoun = me (for me)

Verb Phrase =  hace falta (is necessary)

Subject = un suéter caliente (a warm sweater)

The literal translation is: For me is necessary a warm sweater.

You may also see this sentence in a slightly different form.  Instead of: Me hace falta un suéter caliente, you might see: A mí me hace falta un suéter caliente.  A mí signifies to me or for me.  It adds emphasis to the sentence, that is to say, it uses the words for me to put stress on the word me.  A mí is a prepositional phrase that adds emphasis to the indirect object which is me.

and me both mean me in English.  Let’s not stress ourselves out right now by focusing on why these two words, which both mean me, are used together, one right after the other, in the same sentence.  If you think about it too much, you might get a headache!

A prepositional phrase can also be added for clarity as well as emphasis.  For example, I may need a warm sweater in this climate, but my friend, Germán, may need a warm coat instead.

A mí me hace falta un suéter caliente.  Literal Translation – For me is necessary a warm sweater.  Actual Meaning – I need a warm sweater.

A él le hace falta un abrigo caliente.  Literal Translation – For him is necessary a warm coat.  Actual meaning – He needs a warm coat.  Notice that le (him) is the indirect object pronoun, and that the prepositional phrase is a él (for him)

Or, you might say:

A  Germán le hace falta un abrigo caliente.  Literal Translation – For Germán him is necessary a warm coat.  Actual Meaning – Germán needs a warm coat. (emphasis on Germán)

If you did not choose to use the prepositional phrase, you could say:

Le hace falta un abrigo caliente.  Literal Translation – For him is necessary a warm coat.  (for him is used without the stress or emphasis)  Actual Meaning – He needs a warm coat.

But, if you wanted to use Germán’s name in the sentence, you would have to add back in the preposition a and make a prepositional phrase.

A  Germán le hace falta un abrigo caliente.  

This verb structure can so confusing to English speakers!!!  Let’s get a little more confused! Shall we?

The nouns sweater and coat are singular nouns.  But what if we wanted to use plural nouns?  Here is what the sentences would look like:

Me hacen falta unos sombreros calientes.  (I need some warm hats.) (For me is necessary some warm hats.)

A Germán le hacen falta unos calcetines calientes.  (Germán needs some warm socks.) (For German is necessary some warm socks.)

The verb hacer has been changed from the third person singular (hace) to the third person plural (hacen).

Well, I hope that this blog post about the structure and use of hacer falta has helped you have a clearer understanding of this topic.  I sincerely hope that you are not in need of taking an aspirin due to this confusing and headache producing subject!

Are you an advanced Spanish student?  If so, try this sentence out for size.

No les ha hecho falta ni nada ni nadie más para darse el ‘sí, quiero’ y convertirse en marido y mujer.  Now there is a complicated sentence for you!

This sentence comes from an article in El Mundo La Otra Crónica about the private wedding of television presenter, Cristina Pedroche, and Spanish 5 star Michelin chef, David Muñoz.  They were recently married in their home. The only people who attended the wedding were their parents and the notary public.  Now that’s a private celebrity wedding!

An approximate literal translation of the above sentence may be: For them they have not needed anything more or anybody else to say ‘Yes, I love you’, and become man and wife.

I think that the actual translation might be:  They have needed nothing more (than a simple ceremony), with no one else (other than their parents and the notary public present), in order to say their vows and the become man and wife.  I am not completely sure about this, but I think that the reason the auxillary verb haber (ha) and the past participle of hacer (hecho) is used because of a cause and effect situation.  The past perfect can be used to talk about past actions that cause present situations or consequences.  The cause is in the past.  The effect/consequence/is in the present.  They have not needed anything more or anybody else (on the day they got married – the past) in order to become the man and wife that they are (in the present).  If anyone would like to comment on this and make things clearer, please do!

Cristina Pedroche y David Muñoz, inseparables
“Cristina Pedroche and David Muñoz son pioneros en celebrar una boda en su propio domicilio, sin más invitados que sus padres y ante un notario. No les ha hecho falta nada ni nadie más para darse ‘sí, yo quiero’, y convertirse en marido y mujer.”  (El Mundo La Otra Crónica) Photo: Pinterest/Hola.com USA

I hope I have helped a little bit with your understanding of the verb phrase hacer falta.  It’s a tricky one!

¡Hasta Pronto!

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