Continuing our look at idiomatic phrases, today we are going to look at a nice example that is best learnt as vocabulary rather than trying to make any sense of it. However, as is traditional here on Spectrum Monkey, we will at least attempt to explain its origins.
“Echar de menos” means to miss
in the sense of longing for something or someone or feeling that something is missing. This is quite different from the original meaning of the verb “echar” which usually means to throw,
although in fairness has quite a few different meanings depending how it’s used. We will almost certainly return to this verb in more detail another time.
So how do we get from to throw
to to miss
by adding “de menos”? This literally translates to mean “to throw of less”, which clearly doesn’t make much sense. This then, is probably one of those times when we shouldn’t worry too much that it makes no literal sense. However, for those with a passing interest in the origins of phrases, let’s quickly explain how this construction has come about.
Originating from the Portuguese phrase “achar de menos” which literally means to find oneself lacking something,
this is an example of an expression that has over time bled from Portuguese into Castilian Spanish. However, to be clear, the Spanish verb “echar” and the Portuguese verb “achar” merely sound similar, but have completely different meanings. Thus the Spanish version “echar de menos” doesn’t make any literal sense today.
Now that we’ve satisfied our curiosity as to how this expression has come about, let's see how we can use it in our day to day, by simply conjugating the verb "echar" accordingly and adding object pronouns where necessary. As ever, the best way to show this, is by seeing some examples:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“Te echo de menos” ||I miss you |
|“Yo también la echo de menos” ||I miss her too |
|“¿Me echas de menos?” ||Do you miss me? |
|“Te echaré de menos” ||I will miss you |
|“La vamos a echar de menos” ||We're going to miss her |
|“Echaba de menos el cariño de su familia” ||He missed his family's love |
|“Echo de menos mi viejo coche” ||I miss my old car |
You may already be aware of the verb “extrañar” which does indeed mean to miss
. This can be used in place of “echar de menos”. Here then are the first three phrases from above, reworded to use the verb “extrañar”:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“Te extraño” ||I miss you |
|“Yo también la extraño” ||I miss her too |
|“¿Me extrañas?” ||Do you miss me? |
Whilst it might seem easier and more obvious to use the verb “extrañar” over the construction “echar de menos”, “extrañar” is not as widely used in mainland Spain. Conclusion | En conclusión
Whether you more readily hear “Te echo de menos” or “Te extraño” will largely depend on what part of the Spanish speaking world you find yourself in. Having a working knowledge of both is useful and a great reminder that often things are said extremely idiomatically.
Some Spanish verbs have several meanings. These meanings can be extended or changed further by the addition of extra words that create idiomatic constructions. “Echar de menos” is an excellent example of this very concept. As we grow more accustomed to using and conjugating Spanish verbs, we may also start to use such idiomatic constructions in the same way.