Mi manca? Mi manchi? A Guide to the Use of ‘Mancare’

If you want to say “I miss” in Italian, you should say “mi manca” and not “manco”. 

Why so? What does the “mi” in front stand for?

Understanding the use of ‘mancare’ in Italian

The mi is an indirect pronoun and it’s used because mancare doesn’t follow a regular conjugation pattern, but it has the same construction of the verb “piacere”.

Both verbs piacere and mancare are known as “impersonal verbs”.

The impersonal verbs are conjugated with indirect object pronouns and in the third persons singular and plural. 

That’s why in Italian we can’t say “manco” (which literally would mean something like, “I’m lacking”). Instead we use the forms manca or mancano (+ indirect pronouns), which are the third personal singular and plural conjugations of the verb mancare + the appropriate indirect pronoun. 

This chart illustrates the usage of “mi manca” with singular nouns or infinitive verbs and “mi mancano” with plural nouns.

Italian SentenceEnglish TranslationFunction
Mi manca il mare.I miss the sea.singular noun
Mi manca viaggiare.I miss traveling.verb
Mi manca la musica classica.I miss classical music.singular noun
Mi manca leggere.I miss reading.verb
Mi mancano gli amici.I miss my friends.plural noun
Mi mancano le montagne.I miss the mountains.plural noun
conjugation of ‘mancare’ in present tense

Mancare in the Present Tense 

As we conjugate the verb, the verb ‘mancare’ always stays in the 3rd person singular or plural, but we have to remember to change the pronouns according to this chart.

3° person singular3° person pluralIn English
mi mancami mancanoI miss
ti mancati mancanoyou miss
gli mancagli mancanohe misses
le mancale mancanoshe misses
ci mancaci mancanowe miss
vi mancavi mancanoyou miss (pl.)
gli mancagli mancanothey miss

Why do you use “a” before mancare, sometimes?

When the person who misses something is explicit (is mentioned), the noun must be preceded by the preposition “a“:

For example:

A Marco manca l’ItaliaMarco misses Italy
A Lucia non manca la sua vecchia casaLucia doesn’t miss her old house
Ai miei amici manca viaggiareMy friends miss traveling

In all of the foregoing sentences Marco, Lucia and i miei amici are explicit (which means that they are ‘mentioned’)

Of course, we can easily replace Marco, Lucia and ‘ai miei amici’ by using the respective indirect pronouns, as described in the chart.

  • Gli (a Marco) manca l’italia – He misses Italy  
  • Le (a Lucia) non manca la sua vecchia casa – She doesn’t miss her old house
  • Gli (ai miei amici) manca viaggiare – They miss travelling

How to say ‘I missed’ (mancare in the Passato Prossimo) 

Just like in the present tense, mancare follows a different conjugation pattern in the passato prossimo.

3° person singular3° person pluralIn English
mi è mancato/ami sono mancati/eI missed
ti è mancato/ati sono mancati/eyou missed
gli è mancato/agli sono mancati/ehe missed
le è mancato/ale sono mancati/eshe missed
ci è mancato/aci sono mancati/ewe missed
vi è mancato/avi sono mancati/eyou missed (pl.)
gli è mancato/agli sono mancati/ethey missed
conjugation of ‘mancare’ in the passato prossimo

As you can see from the list above, the past tense combines three elements: 

the indirect pronouns + the auxiliary essere + the past participle (mancato/a/i/e).

Different uses of the verb ‘mancare’

mancare vs. perdere

The verb “to miss” has two main definitions in English: either you miss something or someone with nostalgia, or you miss a train, bus, or an opportunity. The verb “to miss” in Italian, however, only has the first meaning (when you miss someone or something in a nostalgic way), not the second.

Use the verb perdere, which means to lose, to say that you missed a train or an opportunity.

  • ho perso il treno  – I missed my train 
  • ho perso una grande opportunità – I missed a good opportunity  

mancare = non c’è (there’s not)

Mancare is a verb with many usages. One of them is when mancare is used to state that something is there or not there. 

In this case the meaning of mancare is similar to the meaning of “there isn’t” and “there aren’t”.

  • manca = non c’è (there’s not)
  • non manca = c’è (there’s)
  • mancano = non ci sono (there are not)
  • non mancano = ci sono (there are)

For example:

  • manca una persona nel gruppo  – one person is missing from the group
  • mancano i bicchieri a tavola – there are no glasses on the table
  • non manca niente – nothing is missing

Quanto manca? 

Another usage of mancare is related with the time and is the translation of the English sentences “X time is left until something”

Examples:

  • Mancano due settimane a Natale – there are two weeks left until Christmas 
  • Manca un’ora per arrivare  – there’s one hour left until arrival 
  • Mancano 10 minuti alla fine della lezione – there are 10 minutes left until the end of class

This use of mancare is very colloquial and used in spoken in Italian and sometimes it’s hard to translate in English. 

How to say ‘I miss you’ in Italian

Mi manchi means “I miss you”. I recommend learning this sentence as an expression as this us of the verb mancare is not common in other conjugations or tenses. 

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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