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I've always used "faltar" to mean "to lack, to be missing".

But in my reading I find that "carecer" seems to mean exactly the same.

When should I use the one or the other? Are there some differences?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

They mean almost the same

Carecer = Tener falta de algo.

Faltar = Consumirse, acabar, fallecer.

Now, carecer its used followed by the preposition de so if you want to say (i.e.) I don't have any money, you just say:

"carezco de dinero"

Saying that is like saying that you don't have it AT ALL.

Now, faltar is reflexive:

me falta algo

te falta algo

nos falta algo, and so on.

Now, if you say

me falta dinero

It doesn't mean you don't have it at all, It means you have some but not the amount you need or want.

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1  
Aha. This is helpful. So does carecer always come with de, no exceptions? –  hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 7:04
2  
@hippietrail yes, almost always. The only exception is when it's used in an answer, so the object is implicit: -¿Tienes dinero? -Carezco [de dinero] –  Diego Mijelshon Nov 17 '11 at 16:41

There is a subtle difference between the two. Allow me to explain:

Faltar is indeed when something is missing. "Me falta tiempo" I lack the time

Carecer is rather something that you never had. Something you don't have. Sort of. For instance: "Rodrigo carece de paciencia" Rodrigo has a lack of patience || Rodrigo has no patience

Here are the definitions:

From Word Reference

carecer

  1. intr. No poseer algo, tener falta de algo. ♦ Se construye con la prep. de: carecen de escrúpulos. Irreg. Se conj. como agradecer.

faltar

  1. intr. No existir una cosa, no haber, carecer de ella: aquí falta un radiador.
  2. No estar alguien o algo donde debería: me falta la cartera del bolso.
  3. No acudir a una cita u obligación: faltó a la reunión.
  4. Ausentarse o estar ausente: falta de su casa desde hace quince días.
  5. Quedar tiempo para que algo ocurra o se realice: faltan tres meses para las vacaciones.
  6. No cumplir con algo que se expresa: faltó a su promesa.
  7. No tratar a alguien con la consideración o respeto debidos: faltó a su padre.
  8. ¡no faltaba o faltaría más! loc. De ninguna manera: ¿que le ayude después de lo que me ha hecho?, sí, hombre, ¡faltaría más!
  9. loc. Sin duda, por supuesto: -¿podría ayudarme? -¡no faltaba más!

You can see that faltar has much more connotations depending on the context. They are very alike. Falta is used too when someone is at fault, whether morally or physically.

Example:

He was disrespectful

Me faltó al respeto

Hope this helps!

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I think we should probably have a policy of always disclosing where definitions are taken from if we are quoting directly. We don't want to end up with copyright problems. –  hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 7:03
1  
They are linked. I edited it aswell :-) –  Joze Nov 17 '11 at 7:08

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