There is a lot of different ways to miss and be missing in English. I miss you. I missed the flight. I missed the field goal. Kyle is missing. Some of these meanings of “missing” imply attendance, or more specifically absence: Who’s missing? Others are chance occurrences–the flight or the field goal. Others still imply emotional attachment, longing–I miss you. Do you miss me?
It’s both reassuring and revolting that we express such a range of emotions with the same English word, “missing.” One word will get you understood, but with little precision. Spanish, as is so often the case, is more precise, more poetic. If you miss the flight, that’s perder. Same it true if you missed a program or your favorite podcast. There is even a terrific twist; in a way that we never could in English, there is even a way to say “the flight missed itself on me”: se me perdió el vuelo. Here you transfer blame and responsibility to the bus or the keys or the document. Linguistic laziness or lexical lightning? Either way, this level of “missing” is the most straightforward, the least sublime.
The next step up on the sublime scale is the duo of faltar and fallar. Faltar is best for attendance and opinions. ¿Quién falta? Who is missing? a teacher might say. The same teacher might turn around and say to the students who are there: Falta algo aquí. Something is missing here.
The most sublime of the expressions of “missing” are extrañar and echar de menos. The former is used most in Latin America while the latter is most common in Spain. Te extraño. Te echo de menos. I miss you. Curiously, the adjective extraño, -a has little linguistic connection to extrañar, as it means “strange,” that is unless you missed someone’s strange ways.
In the end, it matters greatly who or what you’re missing and how much. That’s the beauty of Spanish and something English is, well, missing.