Posted by: janecronin | October 29, 2017


This week’s verb is “dar” which means “to give”.  It is a very basic verb in Spanish because as well as meaning “give” it has a lot of derivatives and idiomatic uses as well, so it can actually be translated in all sorts of different ways.

Let´s start with the straightforward stuff first though.  In terms of the changes it makes it is basically regular, with the exception of the first person singular of the present tense which is “doy” (I give) and that pesky preterite or misnamed past “simple” tense in which “dar” goes mad and does its own thing – “di, diste, dio, dimos, disteis, dieron”.   It´s also irregular in the present subjunctive “dé” but you probably don´t need to worry too much about that.

We probably first come across this verb in simple exchanges such as “dame” (give me) or slightly more formal “deme” (that is “give me” when we are addressing the person as “usted”).  In either case, the translation into English makes our hackles rise as we would never dare say “give me” in English unless it was accompanied at the very least with “Could you …” and “please”.  Depending of course on our general manner and tone of voice, these basic instructions are fine in a Spanish context.  However, we could soften the effect slightly by changing the command into a question “¿me das un kilo de manzanas?”

We use “dar” in a lot of expressions where in English we use “make”.  For example, if something makes you thirsty, in Spanish you would say “me da sed” (it gives me thirst).  Likewise “me da hambre” (it makes me hungry).  There are actually many different but similar constructions – “me da rabia” (it makes me furious – literally “it gives me rage”); “me da pena”  (it makes me feel sorry – literally “it gives me sorrow or pain) and so on.  If you wish to express apathy or lack of interest in something, or you simply don´t mind what decision is made, you can say “me da igual” (something like – it´s all the same to me).  We can also “dar un susto” to someone, which is to give them fright, and even more idiomatically we can “dar un paseo” (go for a walk or stroll); “dar una vuelta” (go for a walk, ride or drive round).

To enter into even deeper waters, “dar” is very often found in the reflexive form “darse” and again this gives rise to a multitude of idioms.  One of the most useful ones is “darse cuenta” which means “to realise” and one of the most useful phrases ever is the one you can use when you turn up with the wrong paperwork, give the wrong change or generally get the wrong end of the stick and someone puts you right: “Perdón, no me di cuenta” (Sorry, I didn´t realise).

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