In this sentence, gli is not the pronoun object of a preposition (His family is missed "by" him), but is an indirect object pronoun (answering the questions to/for whom?), as in "His family is missing to him." It's an awkward construction in English, but in some Romance languages it is used for verbs such as "piacere" (to like). If you want to say "He likes the apples", you say " Gli piaciano le mele." Literally, you are saying "The apples are pleasing to him." Likewise, in this context the verb to miss , "mancare", is used the same way to say "He misses his family." Gli manca la sua famiglia = His family is missing to him.
Thank you for your explanation Ellen. It is confusing because Gli is masculine because he is doing the missing, but also plural because they are being missed. It is also confusing because la sua famiglia is singular but them is plural. In another discussion, it was said Italian grammar used the word not the meaning (the government says vs the government say) to determine if singular or plural is used It will take a bit of practice to get used to it. It helps me when I can define exactly what is confusing, rather than the white noise/"does not compute" feeling when I read this for the first time.
wow. What a weird thing to use "missing to him" in the say way as "pleasing to him" I could have never guessed this right. Plus I thought gli was only plural. Also "ci" is used in singular terms when I just read it is a plural form. This will all be confusing for a long while. I will simply have to accept the phrase for what it is without trying to make sense of it for now.
It's wrong because "gli" is a masculine pronoun. It would have to be "le" to indicate that it was a woman who was missing her family. "Le manca la sua famiglia." (Her family was missing to her.) It's a difficult construction to understand. Luckily, it doesn't occur often; mostly with mancare and piacere.
Thanks for your explanation Ellen, it will be a little rule to watch out for in future, as I, like others, considered the sentence to be refering to a woman missing her family! The fact my memory is bad and it doesn't occur very often means I'll probably be just as mystified the next time this sentence construct appears. Thanks
That seems, to me, completely contradictory to what the Clitics section has taught.
"The family (subject) misses him (direct object)." Why did you use "lui" here, which I thought was "he" in subject form? I would have thought "gli" went there.
"He (subject) misses his family (direct object)" Here, "Lui manca la sua famiglia" seems like the correct translation, since "He" is the subject, not the direct object.
Have I misunderstood a rule on the use of "lui" vs "gli"?
you are confused with the verb "mancare". it roughly means "to be missed by", so the subject of manca is the one that's missed.
in other words, the object of the English sentence "I miss you" becomes the subject in italian: "tu mi manchi" / "tu manchi a me".
The subject in "Gli manca la sua famiglia" is "la sua famiglia", and "gli" is an indirect object pronoun. the word order is inverted, you could rewrite it as:
La sua famiglia manca a lui. La sua famiglia gli manca.
Another attempt at clarifying ;-) "Manca" works like "belong to" in English. When I own something, it belongs to me. Subject and object are just the opposite in the constructions with "own" and "belong to". So if there was an equivalent counterpart to "miss" (= kind of the opposite of "own"), this would be the perfect translation, at least regarding the structure of the sentence. In German for instance there is such a pair, "fehlen" works like manca, "vermissen" works like "miss".
For everyone still confused about that sentence, it probably stems from the fact that "manca" is in active voice, but has a rather passive meaning - hence the roles of subject and object are reversed. Try to look at it this way. A translation that preserves the roles of subject and object would be "To him his family is missing." "His family" is the subject, the action is "to be missing", the indirect object is "to him'.
I am not 100% certain, but I think, "miss" as used here with the meaning of feeling the absence, is rather a stative verb, and those are not normally used in the continuous form. In the meaning of not reaching or achieving someone or something, that is not the case - like in "He is missing the target".
https://grammar.collinsdictionary.com/us/italian-easy-learning/object-pronouns Really helps explain this