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Faltar and Callar

Why is the verb Faltar, which means “to lack”, so common in Spanish but not in English? And what’s the difference between Faltar and Hacerle Falta? Let’s learn how to use Faltar, and we’ll also talk about the frequently-used (but sometimes impolite) verb Callarse.

Full Podcast Episode


Nos faltaban algunas palabras.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn two new verbs that are both conjugated exactly like Hablar. The first one is Faltar, which means “to lack” or “to be missing”. Here’s a simple example:

Three people are missing.

Faltan tres personas.

So the sense here is not that the people are lost, but that they’re lacking from the group where their presence is expected. Here’s another example:

Where are the rest? Three dogs are missing.

¿Dónde están los demás? Faltan tres perros.

Now as I mentioned, the verb Faltar also means “to lack”, specifically when you’re referring to what it is that’s missing something. So for example:

The food lacks salt.

A la comida le falta sal.

OK, so there are some complicated things here both in the English and in the Spanish. Let’s start with the Spanish. We’re using an indirect object, and in this case a redundant indirect object. In this way, it’s behaving kind of like Gustar or Importar, where there’s an indirect object but not a direct object. Literally, this sentence is “to the food to it lacks salt”. But this is the proper way to structure the sentence when we’re mentioning what it is that’s lacking something.

But now to the issue in English. The thing is, in modern English, we don’t really use the verb “lack” a whole lot anymore. Instead, we’re more likely to phrase the sentence either as “The food is missing salt” or “the food needs more salt”.

Try it yourself in this next example:

The dog is missing some hair.

Al perro le falta algo de pelo.

So again, this sentence could be translated as “the dog lacks some hair”.

Now you might recall that we’ve learned the noun falta to mean “lack”. For example, “there is a lack of food” is hay una falta de comida. And we’ve also learned to say that something is in need of something using the verb Hacer along with the noun falta. So check out this sentence:

The food is in need of salt.

A la comida le hace falta sal.

In general, when something is “in need of” something, you’ll use hacerle falta, but if something is “missing” something or “lacks” something, you’ll use our new verb, Faltar, along with an indirect object.

Let’s practice Faltar, and I’ll also throw in one or two uses of hacerle falta; you’ll know to predict that if you hear “in need of”.

My friends are missing those books.

A mis amigos les faltan esos libros.

A doctor is lacking and that’s why they are sick.

Falta un médico y por eso están enfermos.

A lot of people are missing, but before nobody was missing.

Faltan muchas personas, pero antes no faltaba nadie.

My brother was missing some things when he returned to his house.

A mi hermano le faltaban algunas cosas cuando volvió a su casa.

I think he’s not in need of anything these days, but before he was missing that.

Creo que no le hace falta nada estos días, pero antes le faltaba eso.

We’re missing one person. I hope next time we’re not in need of anyone.

Nos falta una persona. Espero que la próxima vez no nos haga falta nadie.

Our next verb is Callar, spelled c-a-l-l-a-r, which means “to shut up”. And actually, the verb we’re going to practice is Callarse, the pronominal version, which means to “shut up”, as in to stop talking or to stop making noise. The thing is, the verb Callar does technically exist as a verb that you could use in cases where you’re making someone else stop making noise, for example if a mom is quieting her baby down, but that’s very infrequent. What’s much more frequent is rudely telling someone to shut up. For example:

Shut up! The professor(f) is talking.

¡Cállate! La profesora está hablando.

Of course, this is not particularly polite, but it is frequent enough to be worth learning. It’s also possible to use Callarse in non-imperative circumstances. For example:

I hope it shuts up soon.

Espero que se calle pronto.

Let’s go ahead and get some practice with this verb. It’s conjugated exactly like Hablar, so you should be able to predict all the forms.

Can you shut up? I don’t want to hear anything else about your hair.

¿Puedes callarte? No quiero oír más nada sobre tu cabello.

(plural) Shut up! I don’t want to listen to your voice again.

¡Cállense! No quiero volver a escuchar su voz.

I want him to shut up and you also to shut up.

Quiero que él se calle y que tú también te calles.

Everyone has shut up because he said he didn’t like medicine.

Todos se han callado porque él dijo que no le gustaba la medicina.

(formal) Shut up! They said that you have to shut up, why don’t you listen?

¡Cállese! Dijeron que se tiene que callar, ¿por qué no escucha?

He shuts up when she’s talking, and she needs me to shut up too.

Él se calla cuando ella habla, y necesita que yo también me calle.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/211. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

We want you to shut up because that has not been finished yet.

Queremos que te calles porque eso no ha sido terminado todavía.

I want you to shut up, I don’t want you to talk to me about your hair.

Quiero que te calles, no quiero que me hables de tu pelo.

(plural) Shut up! The medic is talking about that illness.

¡Cállense! El médico está hablando sobre esa enfermedad.

He has shut up and now he wants me to shut up too.

Él se ha callado y ahora quiere que yo me calle también.

She shuts up because she knows the food is good today.

Ella se calla porque sabe que la comida está buena hoy.

I love him, but I know he’s marrying her.

Yo lo amo, pero sé que él se casa con ella.

I don’t know what’s happening, but it seems something is missing there.

No sé qué pasa, pero parece que falta algo ahí.

She thinks he has no soul and that’s why she doesn’t want to marry him.

Cree que no tiene alma y por eso no quiere casarse con él.

They have gotten married, but I don’t know when.

Ellos se han casado, pero no sé cuándo.

Something is missing still, but we know the party is at her house.

Falta algo todavía, pero sabemos que la fiesta es en su casa.

I have pain in my arm and he has pain in his ear(external).

Tengo dolor en el brazo y él tiene dolor en la oreja.

They didn’t talk about the problem in the brain because medics were lacking.

No hablaron del problema en el cerebro porque faltaban médicos.

That has been finished and now I’m marrying him.

Eso ha sido terminado y ahora me caso con él.

Shut up! Nothing was missing before, but now something is missing.

¡Cállate! No faltaba nada antes, pero ahora falta algo.

The party is at that place, but we’re still missing a lot of things.

La fiesta es en ese lugar, pero todavía nos faltan muchas cosas.

Shut up! I know you love him, but he has had a heart attack.

¡Cállate! Sé que lo amas, pero ha tenido un ataque al corazón.

He’s sick, he has problems in his nose and hasn’t slept well.

Está enfermo, tiene problemas en su nariz y no ha dormido bien.

(formal) Shut up! Please, I want you to shut up because it was something very sad.

¡Cállese! Por favor, quiero que se calle porque fue algo muy triste.

It was a sad event, he was only able to talk to the nurse(m).

Fue un evento triste, solo pudo hablar con el enfermero.

It occurred to me that the food is not good today.

Se me ocurrió que la comida no está buena hoy.

She loves him, but you’re marrying him, so she has to shut up.

Ella lo ama, pero tú te casas con él, así que se tiene que callar.

He wants to sleep because he has problems in his leg and in his ear(inner).

Quiere dormir porque tiene problemas en la pierna y en el oído.

Can you shut up? We can’t come up with what’s going on with his health.

¿Puedes callarte? No se nos ocurre qué pasa con su salud.

Some people say he has a very big forehead.

Algunas personas dicen que tiene una frente muy grande.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/211.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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