Elle a manqué tomber.
el lah mah-kay taw-BAY. Click below to hear this!
She almost fell.
In other words, she missed falling. That about sizes it up, doesn’t it? Another way to say this in French is Elle a failli tomber. If you choose that verb–faillir–you can see the English word fail embedded in the French word. If you almost do something, you fail to do it, right? Or you just miss doing it; that is, you fall just short of doing it.
Manquer is a regular first-conjugation verb (-er, about as regular as they come), whereas faillir is not even a complete verb: it is missing certain forms. Which forms it is lacking depends on the meaning you attribute to the verb; a good dictionary will show you the way!
Note carefully that some uses of the verb manquer (to lack, to fail, to “almost”) call for deafter the verb, whereas this construction doesn’t allow de. That’s how you tell which meaning is intended.
If you enter “manquer” in the Search field on the Spk Frnch page, you’ll find discussions of several other uses of manquer. It’s a fascinating verb, once you start noticing the different prepositions that can (or can’t!) go with it.
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