Faltar & sobrar

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Here are two interesting verbs in Spanish: faltar and sobrar. They are opposites. We use faltar to say we are short of something (or we lack or don’t have something) and sobrar to say we have an excess of something.

The interesting thing is these two verbs are just like gustar: the thing we are short of or we have an excess of is the subject, and the person being short of or having an excess of something is expressed using an indirect object pronoun. Without giving it too much thought, we’ll just use them in the following way:

If the thing we don’t have/we have an excess of is singular, we’ll use falta/sobra. If it’s plural, we’ll use faltan/sobran.

Me falta [una cosa] – I’m short of/I’m lacking/I don’t have [one thing]
Me sobra [una cosa] – I have an excess of [one thing]

Me faltan [muchas cosas] – I’m short of/I’m lacking/I don’t have [many things]
Me sobran [muchas cosas] – I have an excess of [many things]

For using them with all six grammatical persons, we’ll use the indirect object pronouns (the ones we use with gustar), which are:


We can’t use the subject pronouns (yo, tú, él, etc.) with these verbs. If we want to use an additional pronoun at the beginning of the sentence (which we sometimes do) we need to use the personal a in front of it (since the object is a person) and thus use the pronouns we use after a preposition. We will say a mí, a ti, a él/ella, a nosotros/as, a vosotros/as, or a ellos/as. This is always optional, but it’s somehow common.

So the whole thing would look like this:

(A mí) Me falta / Me faltan
(A ti) Te falta / Te faltan
(A él/ella) Le falta / Le faltan
(A nosotros/as) Nos falta / Nos faltan
(A vosotros/as) [Os falta / Os faltan]
(A ellos/as) Les falta / Les faltan

(A mí) Me sobra / Me sobran
(A ti) Te sobra / Te sobran
(A él/ella) Le sobra / Le sobran
(A nosotros/as) Nos sobra / Nos sobran
(A vosotros/as) [Os sobra / Os sobran]
(A ellos/as) Les sobra / Les sobran

Lastly, here is a song by Joaquín Sabina in which he begins each verse saying he’s lacking/he doesn’t have something (with faltar) and he has an excess of something (with sobrar):

Lyrics: http://www.joaquinsabina.net/seis-tequilas/

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