The Spanish language is full of idiomatic expressions.  This is enough to confuse any Spanish learner who is trying to keep up with a conversation, article, or song in Spanish. Especially if you translate these phrases literally, you will quickly find yourself lost and confused.


To make it even more difficult, many idiomatic expressions have the same frequently used words. In this article, I’ll break down 9 common phrases that use the word “dar” (“to give”) in Spanish.


Review these phrases so you won’t be left in the dark during your next conversation with a native Spanish speaker. I’ll provide an example with each phrase so you can see exactly how to use the expressions in context. ¿Listo? (Ready?) Let’s review…


1. Dar a luz


Literally translated, this would be “to give a light” which is completely wrong and makes no sense in English.

This is a common expression that means “to give birth” in Spanish.  


For example:


- "¿Adriana ya dio a luz?"

Did Adriana give birth?

"Sí, ayer nació su hija preciosa."

Yes, yesterday her precious daughter was born.



2. Dar por sentado


You may be familiar with the word “sentado” as “seated” – but  it also means “assumption.”  The phrase “dar por sentado” can be translated as “to take for granted” or “to assume.”


Here are a few examples:


- Ella dió por sentado que no todos iban a venir a la boda. No tenían suficientes sillas ni comida.

She assumed that not everyone would come to the wedding. They didn’t have enough chairs or food.


- Nunca debemos dar por sentado nuestra salud y bienestar.

We should never take for granted our health and wellbeing.



3. Darse cuenta de que


This is a very common expression, and it’s one you should memorize and use.  In English, we would say “to realize that…” or “to find out.”  More formally, it can also be translated as “to become aware of…”


Here are some examples of “darse cuente de que” used in context:


- Me dí cuenta de que no apagué el horno antes de salir de la casa cuando regresé y  olí la comida quemada.

I realized that I didn’t turn off the oven before I left the house when I returned and smelled the burnt food.


- Mis papás se dieron cuenta de que llegué muy tarde anoche.

My parents found out that I arrived very late last night.



4. Darse por vencido


This Spanish phrase means “to give in,” “to surrender,” or “to give up.”  In English, we have an expression that expresses the same idea figuratively: “to throw in the towel.”


Here are some examples of how to use “darse por vencido”:


- ¡No me voy a dar por vencido! ¡Voy a lograr mis metas!

I am not going to give up! I will achieve my goals!


- No lo entiendo. Mi exnovio no se quiere dar por vencido. No importa cuántas veces le digo que ya no quiero estar con él, me sigue llamando.

I don’t understand it. My ex-boyfriend doesn’t want to give in. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him that I don’t want to be with him anymore, he keeps calling.




5. Puede darse


This is an expression that expresses a possible cause of something else.  It can be translated as “may occur” or “may be” like in the following examples:


- El asma puede darse debido a alergias.

Asthma may occur due to allergies.


- La ola de calor puede darse debido al calientamento global.

The heatwave may be due to global warming.



6. Dar la gracias


“Dar la gracias” is a nice expression that means “to express gratitude” or simply “to thank.”


Here are a few ways you might use this expression:


- Quiero dar la gracias a todos los que me han apoyado.

I want to thank all those who have supported me.


- Le quiero dar gracias por todo lo que me ha enseñado.

I want to thank you for everything that you have taught me.



7. Dar a conocer


You probably already know the word “conocer” as “to know” or “to be familiar with.” The expression “dar a conocer” means “to make public” or “to raise awareness” about something.


Here are some ways you can use this phrase:


- Hicimos una caminata para dar a conocer el autismo.

We did a walkto raise awareness about Autism.


- No querían dar a conocer la identidad del criminal.

They did not want to publicize the identity of the criminal.



8. Dar lugar


This expression, which would literally (and incorrectly) be translated as “to give place,” has quite a different meaning. In Spanish, “dar lugar” is used to explain what caused something else.  The best way to translate this to English would be “to lead to/cause” or “to result in.”


Here are some ways it’s used:


- La nueva estructura va a dar lugar a muchos cambios.

The new structure will result in many changes.


- Su gran talento puede dar lugar al éxito.

Her great talentcan lead to success.



9. Dar la espalda


This phrase has two meanings in Spanish.  It could be used to express your physical disposition, as in “to have one's back to...” But, it can also mean “to turn one's back on” and is used in much the same way we would used the expression in English.  Such as…


- No nos puede dar la espalda.

You can't turn your back on us.


- Ella dio la espalda a la cámara porque no quería una foto.

She turned her back to the camera because she didn’t want a photo.



There you have it, 9 expressions using “dar” that you can use to sound more like a native Spanish speaker.


Suggested Actions: Make flashcards with these expressions, or try writing your own sentences using them.  Try to make it something you would say in a conversation so you are likely to use it in the future.

Hero Image by Debora Tingley on Unsplash