Hey you, miss ME.

There’s a hefty handful of verbs that simply don’t work the same way in French as they do in English.  One of them is to miss, in the sense of “I miss you;” I pine for you; I think fondly of you, and wish you were geographically convenient to me; my feelings for you are akin to dieting woman’s feelings for cake.

To say “I miss you” in English is pretty straightforward. I am doing the thoughtful action of missing you. You are entirely passive. You can return the sentiment if you wish, but it doesn’t change anything on my end.

In French, it’s not so straightforward. “I miss you” translates to French as “Tu me manques.” In French, tu (you) are doing the action: you me miss, you me are missing, you are missing to me. “You me miss” is, of course, far too literal of a translation. Really, it means plain old “I miss you.”

Nonetheless, I’ve always found it awkward to express this sentiment in French. As in English, the verb miss also has the sense of failing something: miss class, miss a target, miss the bus, etc. Thus, when I say “tu me manques,” I feel as if I’m either (a) commanding you to pine for me, or (b) accusing you of actively failing me in your absence. It doesn’t just express longing; it lays a guilt trip.

When I lost patience with Angers this week, though, I suddenly realized how appropriate the French construction of that sentence is. It’s not that I miss America—America is failing me by not being here in France!

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One response to “Hey you, miss ME.

  1. Pingback: It’s not me, it’s you | c'est (toujours) une blague

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