miss / missing / missed

Dog Show

Bernadette from France writes:

It is always hard for me to use the verb miss correctly. I always get confused, for instance, when I try to translate: Tu me manques. Please advise me. Thanking you in advance.

Roger Woodham replies:

miss = fail to make contact with

There are a number of shades of meaning when miss means 'fail to make contact with'. Compare the following:

  • If you're not careful you'll miss the flight and there isn't another one till next week.
  • Is Jenny still here? ~ You've just missed her. She left five minutes ago.
  • He scored four goals, but then he missed a penalty.
  • The bullet just missed my head. It whizzed past my ear and embedded itself in the wall.
  • No, you've missed the point. Bobby GAVE her the money. He didn't want it back.
  • The railway station is right at the end of this road. You can't miss it!
  • If you leave the queue now, you'll miss your chance of seeing this film.
  • It was my granny's funeral last Thursday so I had to miss all my lessons last week.


miss = be sorry to be without

In this sense, we can miss both people and things. This is the meaning of miss that you allude to in your sentence Tu me manques, Bernadette. Note in English we would not translate it as You are missed by me. Instead, we would say simply: I miss you! Compare the following:

  • I miss my grandmother terribly. She was such a kind, gentle person.
  • Will you miss me when I'm away? ~ Oh, I shall miss you all right!
  • What do you miss most about the south of France now you're in Britain?
    ~ I miss my family, I miss the people, I miss the sunshine, I miss the cheese and the wine.
  • Do you miss walking in the Pyrenees? ~ Yes, I miss that too.


missing / missed (adjs) = lost / cannot be found

When missing and missed are used as adjectives, they behave like present and past participles, e.g missing pages are pages that are missing, a missed opportunity is an opportunity that has been missed. Note also that missing is often placed after the noun it qualifies, rather than in front of it. Compare the following:

  • The weather cleared. We should have climbed the mountain. It was a missed opportunity.
  • They were unable to complete the jigsaw as several pieces were missing.
  • Did you know there are five pages missing from this book? It goes from 32 to 43.
  • My name was missing from the list of participants but it was clear that I had enrolled.
  • Ten people are known to have died in the blast and a further fifteen are still missing.
  • Did you know you've got a button missing from your blue shirt?
  • She has been missing for over six months and has now been placed on the missing persons register.

Note that in this last example we talk about a missing person or a missing persons register, rather than missing people or a missing peoples register, to emphasize the individuality of people who have left home and it is not known whether they are alive or dead.


miss in idioms

Note also idiomatic usage in the following expressions:

  • He didn't have all the advantages of a proper education and really missed out.
  • Growing asparagus is very difficult and can be a very hit-and-miss affair.
  • There have been several near misses between planes landing at this airport recently.
  • He's failed his exams again and I think he has missed the boat as far as higher education is concerned.
  • I think I've missed a trick here in failing to consult my accountant about tax returns.
  • I think I'll give the book signing ceremony a miss. What about you? ~ No, I'm going.
  • They came fourth in the league and missed promotion by only one point, but as the old saying goes: a miss is as good as a mile.

miss out on something = miss an opportunity that you would clearly benefit from

hit and miss / hit or miss = sometimes very successful, sometimes not

near miss
= when something is nearly hit by e.g. a vehicle or a bomb

miss the boat
= miss an opportunity which will probably not arise again

miss a trick
= fail to take advantage of an opportunity

give something a miss
= to avoid it

a miss is as good as a mile
= a failure is a failure by however small an amount

NB1 Miss can be used as an alternative to Ms placed in front of the name of an unmarried woman when the person concerned wishes it to be known that she is single.

NB2 Miss Right or Mr Right can be used as expressions to describe a woman or man who is regarded as an ideal marriage partner:

  • He was looking for the perfect Miss Right and had some difficulty in finding her!

If you would like more practice more please visit our in the You, Me and Us part of our website.