Different meanings and uses of faltar

The verb faltar has different meanings depending on the context and the way it is used. Here are the most common meanings and usages of this verb:

Faltar tiempo para algo

We can use faltar with time phrases to indicate the time between the moment of speaking until when an action takes place. For example:

Faltan dos semanas para mi cumpleaños.My birthday is two weeks away.

Faltan dos días para el vencimiento de esa factura.The deadline to pay that invoice is in two days.

Ten paciencia, falta un minuto para que empiece la película.Be patient, the film will start in one minute.

- Mamá, ¿todavía no hemos llegado? -No, pero falta poco.- Mum, haven't we arrived yet? - No, but we'll be there soon (only a bit longer).

As you can see from the examples, we use "para" before the action/event.

Faltar used with this meaning works the same way as gustar in the sense that we use the verb in the 3rd person singular when the subject (the time phrase) is singular ( e.g. falta un minuto) and the 3rd person plural if the subject is plural (e.g. dos semanas).

If we want to ask someone how long is left for any event, we ask this way:

¿Cuánto [tiempo] falta para terminar el curso?How long till the end of the course?

You can omit the word "tiempo":

¿Cuánto falta...? = ¿Cuánto tiempo falta...?

 

Faltar algo a algo/ a alguien

We can use faltar to indicate that there is something missing in something/someone, there is a need for something (lacking something):

A este guiso le falta un poco de sal.This stew needs/is missing a bit of salt.

Tengo que ir al supermercado. Me falta fruta y carne.I have to go to the supermarket. I need fruit and meat.

Chicos, para montar la tienda os faltan las piquetas.Boys, to put up the tent you need tent pegs.

Notice how we use the indirect object pronouns to indicate who is missing/in need of something (le falta, me falta, os faltan).

In a very similar way, we can express "absence", for example:

En esta reunión faltan dos personas.There are two people missing in this meeting.

- ¿Estamos todos? - No, falta Carlos.- Are we all here? - No, Carlos is missing.

¿Faltó alguien en la reunión de ayer? - Sí, Carlos.- Was there anyone missing from yesterday's meeting? - Yes, Carlos.

 

Faltar + infinitive

We can express that there is still something to do/to be done, for example:

He decorado casi toda la casa; falta pintar el salón.I've nearly decorated the whole house; the living room still needs painting.

La sesión terminará pronto; solo falta ver una presentación.The session will end soon; just one presentation to watch.

You could also use a noun or a subordinate clause with que expressing the same idea:

Ahora solo falta la pintura del salón.Now the only thing left to do is to paint the living room.

Ahora solo falta que pintemos el salón.Now the only thing missing is painting the living room.

Note that if we use falta que, we need the subjunctive, because this is seen as something still to happen (a future idea).

All these meanings and usages above show that faltar works the same way as gustar, in the sense that we use the verb in the 3rd person singular when the subject (the time phrase) is singular ( e.g falta un minuto) and the 3rd person plural if the subject is plural (e.g. dos semanas).

 

Other uses of faltar

Faltar al respeto a alguien means to be inconsiderate/disrespectful or to insult someone. For example:

¡No faltes al respeto a tu profesor!Don't insult your teacher!

No voy a consentir que me faltéis al respeto.I'm not going to tolerate you insulting me.

In this case the verb faltar is conjugated normally.

Faltar a un lugar means not to attend . For example:

Si faltas a mi fiesta me enfadaré.If you don't come to my party I'll be cross.

Carlota ha faltado al trabajo más de cuatro veces este mes.Carlota's been absent from work more than four times this month.

Other useful phrases with faltar:

faltar a clase (to skip classes)

faltar a la verdad (to lie)

faltar un tornillo a alguien (to have a screw loose)

Careful! Don't mix up "hacer falta" with "faltar"

Hacer falta expresses a "general need for something" while faltar expresses a "lack of something/something is left to do". Although similar they are slightly different. Here are some examples:

Hace falta lijar la madera.We need to sand the wood. (it is needed)

Ahora falta lijar la madera.Now all that's left to do is to sand the wood. 

In the cases where faltar means that there is something left to do, or a certain time left for something to happen, the verb quedar is a synonym for faltar. For example:

Faltan dos días para el vencimiento de esa factura.The deadline to pay that invoice is in two days.

Meaning the same we could also say:

Quedan dos días para el vencimiento de esa factura.

Also:

Ahora falta lijar la madera.Now all that's left to do is to sand the wood. 

Meaning the same we could say:

Queda solo lijar la madera.

To learn about quedar see Quedar, Quedarse and Quedarle (Different meanings of verb quedar)

 

 

Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

En esta reunión faltan dos personas.There are two people missing in this meeting.
Tengo que ir al supermercado. Me falta fruta y carne.I have to go to the supermarket. I need fruit and meat.
Ahora falta lijar la madera.Now all that's left to do is to sand the wood. 
Carlota ha faltado al trabajo más de cuatro veces este mes.Carlota's been absent from work more than four times this month.
A este guiso le falta un poco de sal.This stew needs/is missing a bit of salt.
¿Cuánto [tiempo] falta para terminar el curso?How long till the end of the course?
No voy a consentir que me faltéis al respeto.I'm not going to tolerate you insulting me.
Si faltas a mi fiesta me enfadaré.If you don't come to my party I'll be cross.
- ¿Estamos todos? - No, falta Carlos.- Are we all here? - No, Carlos is missing.
- Mamá, ¿todavía no hemos llegado? -No, pero falta poco.- Mum, haven't we arrived yet? - No, but we'll be there soon (only a bit longer).
La sesión terminará pronto; solo falta ver una presentación.The session will end soon; just one presentation to watch.
Faltan dos días para el vencimiento de esa factura.The deadline to pay that invoice is in two days.
Si faltas a mi fiesta me enfadaré.If you don't come to my party I'll be cross.
Ahora solo falta que pintemos el salón.Now the only thing missing is painting the living room.
Ten paciencia, falta un minuto para que empiece la película.Be patient, the film will start in one minute.
He decorado casi toda la casa; falta pintar el salón.I've nearly decorated the whole house; the living room still needs painting.
Hace falta lijar la madera.We need to sand the wood. (it is needed)
¡No faltes al respeto a tu profesor!Don't insult your teacher!
Chicos, para montar la tienda os faltan las piquetas.Boys, to put up the tent you need tent pegs.
Faltan dos semanas para mi cumpleaños.My birthday is two weeks away.
Ahora solo falta la pintura del salón.Now the only thing left to do is to paint the living room.
¿Faltó alguien en la reunión de ayer? - Sí, Carlos.- Was there anyone missing from yesterday's meeting? - Yes, Carlos.
Thinking...