"Il manque un couteau."

Translation:A knife is missing.

February 18, 2013

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Wait. Why is it not " He misses a knife"?


Because "il manque" is not "he misses".

"Il manque" is a specific phrase in the neutral form, similar to "il faut + infinitive", "il est nécessaire de + infinitive", ie corresponding to the English "it".

If you want to mean "he misses a knife", you can say "il lui manque un couteau" - same structure, but where "lui" stands for the man who misses a knife.

Note that in English, verb "miss" is transitive while in French the construction is intransitive, with preposition "à" = "manquer à".


I hope Duolingo is paying for your time and expertise, Sitesurf. Your comments are extremely helpful! Merci beaucoup!


No Duolingo does not pay me. You are paying me with your nice message!


Everybody loves you, me included!


Oh la la! Thanks.


Well, I was tempted to say, 'They well should', but then, we are not paying... Anyway, you are a real treasure Sitesuf x


thanks again sitesurf. I will pay you with a lingot!


Please...How can I pay Sitesurf (and George) with my lingots?


You click on "Give Lingot" under their posts that you like.


Thanks for the explanation. I translated it as "he lacks a knife". It is good to know that there are some native french speakers on the site.


I always look forward to your explanations. They are always very helpful. Merci beaucoup.


@laetitia_Lalila, your icon photo looks SO much like my French "crush" Laetitia Casta, that my heart nearly stopped. I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn't said that. Merci beaucoup pour votre présence ici.


@ Sitesurf Merci beaucoup! We may not always have the best attitude when corrected, but, (and I speak for Many, many people) we sincerely appreciate all your help Sitesurf. Bless you.


So would it be correct to think of manquer as generally reflexive, like lever, raser, laver?


Not really because lever, raser, laver are pronominal, meaning that the second, reflexive pronoun represents the same person as the subject and is direct object of the verb:

-Je me rase = I shave myself.

Manquer is like plaire à, convenir à , aller à: the second pronoun is indirect object with preposition "à":

-Il me plaît = il plaît à moi = he/it pleases me / I am pleased by him/it

-Ce projet me convient = ... convient à moi = this project suits me

-Ce manteau me va bien = ... va bien à moi = this coat fits me good


Do "tu me manques" and "tu manques a moi" mean the same thing?


Yes it does, but "tu manques à moi" is incorrect because pronouns are placed in front of the verb in that case.

However, if you use a noun or a name, your construction is correct:

-tu manques à Marie (Marie misses you)

-tu manques à tes parents (your parents miss you)


I appreciate and understand your explanation. It is very helpful. Just to clarify though, "il manque" is the only form we need to add the extra pronoun to have it refer to somebody missing something? Because "tu manques un bon repas" translates to "you are mssing a good meal".


So helpful thanks so much!!


I feel like they need to make a specific game/quiz just to drill this particular concept and this particular verb into my hopelessly English brain. I read Sitesurf's explanation and I just can't wrap my head around this idea, when all the other verbs fit so much more closely with English useage. : (


Thanks Sean I thought it was just me being thick.I am not alone.


"It is a knife missing." is not correct?


That would be "C'est un couteau qu'il manque," or something similar.


Sitesurf, in a comment above you have written oh la la ! When would a francophone use this term?


Oh la la ! can have several uses:

  • "Oh la la !" is uttered with a short and quick, mezzo voce tone of voice, and with your hand on your mouth, eyes wide open, as you suddenly realize that you just made a big mistake (forgot your beloved one's b-day or your appointment at the dentist's). The emotion is sudden and sharp and your situation looks like an absolute disaster.

  • "Oh la la !" is said slowly, with an angry undertone, the last "la" drawling, optionally with a sigh and/or some "t-t-t" with your tongue, and eyes rolling. This is when someone just said something you didn't want to hear (your kid/colleague just did it again; the phone rings for the 5th time in a row). You are exasperated and could probably kill anyone around.

  • "Oh la la !" is high-pitched, childish, one hand is swung left and right, and eye-brows arched high. This is when you have been taken by surprise (surprise B-day party, surprise gift from your lover or children... any type of surprise can do). This is used basically as a reward to those who prepared a surprise for you. Actually, you had guessed for a long time, so you pretend just to please them.

  • "Oh la la !" in a gloomy tone of voice, with sullen face (you missed the last train; it is pouring and you have no brolly; there are 200 people queuing up before you). This is for easily distressed people, and born-victims.


Delightful, witty and funny essay on the proper uses of a great French expression! As always, thanks Sitesurf.


I agree completely, especially with the way you have described this- delightful, witty, and funny essay.


Kind of like oh my god/goodness in English. Thanks for the elaborate explanation.


You asked the right question!


OH LA LA! This is marvelous!


I often hear "Oh la la" in reaction to what the small children are doing. They are opening their presents, but making a big mess with the paper. One is riding the new trotinette in the house. One just started crying in another room. Oh la la!


Couldn't "He is missing a knife" also be a translation for this? And if not, how would one go about saying that?


"il" does not mean "he", or rather not necessarily, it is impersonal.

Therefore, the knife may be missing, but anyone could miss it.


As DRMarcsmius said, how would one actually say "He misses a knife."? And by the way, your work here on this site is very much appreciated!


"he misses a knife" = "il lui manque un couteau" ("manquer à" is intransitive, unlike "miss" + subject and object are reversed: I miss you = tu me manques)

thanks for your nice words...


So does "un couteau lui manque"mean that "he misses a knife" ?


yes, and even in the impersonal form: "il lui manque un couteau"


when you say "il lui manque un couteau," does the lui refer to "il" or "un couteau"?



In "il lui manque un couteau", "lui" refers to the person for whom "il manque un couteau" (a knife is missing).

Il manque un couteau = a knife is missing

Il lui manque un couteau = he is missing a knife


I guess I should have read the Entire page before posting...


I wrote, "It's missing a knife" and it came out incorrect. Something seems to be wrong here, even according to Sitesurf's explaination.


I feel your translation is too literal in that we wouldn't say it that way.


Oskalingo: I thought that too at first, but the two sentences are close in meaning. "There is a knife missing" means a knife is gone from an unspecified place. "It is missing a knife" means a knife is gone from "it" (perhaps a room of some kind) . "Welcome to my kitchen, there is a knife missing" or "Welcome to my kitchen, it is missing a knife" both mean the same thing in this context. I have a feeling though, "It is missing a knife" has a different translation. Hopefully Sitesurf will respond with his/her expertise.


a knife is missing = il manque un couteau (one knife has disappeared)

it is missing a knife = il lui manque un couteau (my kitchen is nearly perfect; it just misses a knife)


Is there a difference between "A knife is missing" and "There is a knife missing"? The second sounds more passive than the first to me. Can either be "Il manque un couteau"?

[deactivated user]

    So, accordingly to your explanation translation "A knife is missing" should be accepted, but unfortuantely it is not. :/


    For those who are having trouble figuring out this sentence, think of the "it" as being like the "it" in "It is raining." Nothing specific is raining, it's just how we say it in English. Or "It is noisy here." What is noisy? Here (i.e. this place) is noisy. "It" doesn't really mean anything in that sentence. When "this place" and "here" refer to the same things (e.g. "this place" is a room and "here" is also the room, rather than a specific part of it), one cannot replace "it" and end up with a meaningful sentence. "This place is noisy here," or "This place is noisy in this place," don't clarify what "it" is representing, because "it" isn't anything.


    Why is "he lacks a knife" not correct? Is there another word for "lack" that's better than "manquer?"


    "Il" here is impersonal, so it can't translate as "he." A tricky thing about the verb "manquer" is that it is the reverse of what the English verb is. The best way to explain what I mean is through the use of an example:

    Un couteau lui manque. = He's missing a knife.

    Literally, the French sentence translates as "A knife is missing from him." As you can see, this sentence cannot be translated the way you tried because in order to come up with your translation, one would have to reword the French sentence so that the knife is acting on "il."


    Is that how, in this case, you know that "il" is impersonal?


    That's how one can know it, yes.


    He is missing a knife Should be accepted


    "il manque" is impersonal; in other words we don't know who misses the knife.


    he misses a knife ... a knife is missing is passive voice = Un couteau est manque / perdue "e" with accent ..


    "il manque" is an impersonal construction, like "it is necessary, it is possible...", so "il/it" do not represent anyone or anything specific.

    Therefore you cannot translate "il" to "he".

    "a knife is missing" can otherwise back translate to "un couteau manque / est manquant" (not est manqué).


    Sitesurf, thanks a million for your INFINITE patience and everything else

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