Spanish Lessons


Using the Spanish Verb Dar

The Spanish verb dar (to give) is very useful, especially to ask and receive good things in life. It can be used in a very literal way to express the idea of giving all sort of things, concrete or abstract, and it's also used in many idiomatic expressions. Let's analyze a few examples:

Let's start with the basic meaning of dar. The imperative mode is a big favorite:


Señorita, la foto es suya. -¡Dame, dame la foto!

Miss, the picture is yours. -Give me, give me the photo!

Caption 56, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

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Remember that the actual conjugated form of the verb here is only da (you give). However, in the imperative form it is very common to attach object pronouns to the verb forms, in effect using them as suffixes. In this case the pronoun me (to me) functions as the indirect object of the verb. It's also very common to also attach more than one pronoun, for example to substitute the direct object as well. In this case the direct object is la foto, a feminine noun. So Morena could have also simply said dámela (give it to me). If there were many fotos it would be dámelas (give them to me), and if we were talking about, let's say, zapatos (shoes), then it would be dámelos (give them to me). You know, it's just an important thing to learn. There is a saying in Spanish that goes, al que no habla, Dios no lo oye (he who doesn't speak, God won't hear).


The verb dar is also used to deal with abstract ideas of giving. For example, just as in English we can say something like "you give me a headache," a Spanish speakers would say me das dolor de cabeza. Spanish extends the use of dar even more, though, to express ideas for which English instead uses verbs such as "to produce," "to yield," or "to bear." 


Mil seiscientos cincuenta da el kilo y nos pesamos.

The kilo yields one thousand six hundred fifty and we weigh it.

Caption 8, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 6

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Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas.

Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit.

Caption 18, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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In fact, the list of uses of dar is quite extensive. You can learn many here and maybe try to find examples in our videos. We'll focus now on the use of dar in idiomatic expressions, where the meaning of dar (to give) is completely transformed into something very different. For example, dar is used to express that something happens: 


No sé, se dio así.

I don't know, it happened that way.

Caption 24, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 4

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There is also the expression darse cuenta (to realize):


Mirala bien y te das cuenta que es una minita.

Look at her closely and you'll realize that it's a chick.

Caption 10, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 6

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The expression se me da por is used to express the idea of getting into the habit or liking of doing something. For example:


Papá, mira la casualidad, ahora que se me da por caminar te encuentro siempre.

Dad, look what a coincidence, now that I got into the habit of walking, I always run into you.

Captions 56-57, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 4

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On the other hand, when someone says that something se le da, it means that something comes natural to the person, that it is a natural talent he or she has:


Que se me dan bastante bien los idiomas.

That I'm pretty good at learning languages.

Caption 4, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf 

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Or not...


A mí no se me da eso de andar en reversa

I'm not good at driving in reverse

Caption 5, Gloria Trevi - Cinco minutos

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One last example. From the expression darse por vencido (to give up, literally "to give oneself as defeated") comes the useful question-and-answer pair, ¿Te das? - Me doy. You must learn both if you like adivinanzas (riddles). This is how you use them:

-Oro parece, plata no es. ¿Qué fruta es? / -It looks like gold, it's not silver. What fruit it is?
-No sé. Me doy. / -I don't know. I give up.
-¿Te das? / -Do you give up
Sí, me doy! / -Yes, I give up!
Fácil. Es el pláta-no. / Easy. It's the banana.



Dar: It's the Land Giving

Y sembrar sus cositas por ahí... lo que da cebolla, tomate, al pimentón, el ají y otras cosas pues, por ahí.

And planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili and other stuff, around here.

Captions 29-31, José Rodríguez - La Finca

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Have you noticed that the verb dar, which we usually take to mean "to give" seems to be used a lot in reference to the growing of fruits and vegetables. Well it turns out that what is doing the "giving," and sometimes it is implied, sometimes more explicit, is la tierra, "the land." Here we find José Rodríguez talking about people in the area "planting their little things around here... producing onion, tomato, red pepper, chili peppers, and other things, around here."

It's not the first time we find dar used in this way. If we check back with our friend Rafael discussing Guatemala:


La tierra... la tierra de las verduras... porque ahí hay'... da buenas... verduras, como repollo, zanahoria, cebolla... tomate...

The land... the land of vegetables... because there are'... it [the land] produces good... vegetables, like cabbage, carrot, onion... tomato...

Captions 14-16, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas como la naranja, la sandía, la papaya, el melón... el coco.

Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit like oranges, watermelon, papaya, melon... coconut.

Captions 18-20, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Another example:

Este año, mis tierras no han dado una buena cosecha.
This year, my lands didn't produce a good harvest.



In all of the examples above, dar takes a direct object ("cabbage", "oranges", etc.). However, the reflexive darse can be used as well, with no direct object, and the meaning is "to grow," or "to come up." (This "reflexive" usage, as per the examples below, is somewhat more common in Spain than Latin America.)

He plantado aquí tomates, pero no se dan.
I planted tomatoes here, but they aren't growing (or "aren't coming up").

Las palmeras no se dan en Noruega.
Palm trees don't grow in Norway.


Estas papayas no se dan en todo lado.

These papayas don't occur everywhere.

Caption 10, Otavalo - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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Caption 20, 19, 18, 16, 15, 14

Voluntad: A Wish, A Will

Dice que tenían... mucha capacidad o mucha voluntad, mucha fuerza.

Say that they had... a lot of capacity or a lot of will, lots of strength.

Captions 39-40, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

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Rafael T. obviously enjoys telling tales of his beautiful (hermosa) country, Guatemala. In this video, he tells us the tale of a mountain called Cerro de Oro that, back in the day -a hundred or so years ago- his ancestors managed to move inland from the coast. How did they manage to accomplish that? "They say they had a lot of capacity or a lot of will, lots of strength..." Rafael explains in captions 39-40. But despite their remarkable fuerza de voluntad ("willpower"), it turns out they were unable to move the mountain as far as they were aiming for. So, as you can see, in legends and reality, voluntad is a word to describe an intention, wish or will, but not necessarily an accomplishment.

On a related note, por mi propia voluntad -meaning "of my own free will"--is a common Spanish phrase that makes voluntad's tie to the English word "voluntary" easy to see.


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