There's More to Dar than Giving

The Spanish verb dar means "to give." However, Spanish uses this verb in many more ways than the English verb "to give." A basic dictionary reports more than forty different uses for it. We already have a lesson exploring some of them. But since the list is long, let's explore another use of the verb dar by analyzing examples found in our catalog of authentic Spanish videos. 


Let's focus on the expression estar dandowhich literally means "to be giving" as in El papá le está dando dinero a su hijo (the father is giving money to his son). Since Spanish uses dar in many more ways than English uses "to give," you will find that estar dando is used in a much broader sense too. For example:

...porque le está dando la luz al monumento.

...because it is lighting the monument.

Caption 26, Club de las ideas - De profesión

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Let's analyze this construction for a moment. It uses dando (giving), which is the gerundio of the verb dar, followed by the noun luz (light) to express a continuous action. It's not that Spanish lacks more orthodox options to express continuous actions. In Spanish, you can also directly use the gerundio of the verb iluminar (to light):  porque está iluminando al monumento (because it is lighting the monument). This is how English usually expresses these continuous actions anyway, by using verbs with the -ing ending, like "lighting." The Spanish use of dando is just an alternative, one that not all verbs would accept. In fact, if you look closely at the last examples in the following list, you'll notice that the alternative using "giving" also exists in English, with certain verbs.

Lucía está dando gritos - Lucía está gritando / Lucia is shouting
Estás brincando - Estás dando brincos / You are jumping
Estamos informando - Estamos dando información / We're informing - We're giving information
Estoy coloreando - Estoy dando color / I'm coloring - I'm giving color
Estoy amando - Estoy dando amor / I'm loving - I'm giving love
Le estamos dando molestias - Le estamos molestando / We are bothering you - We are giving you trouble

Note that you can't always do these substitutions with all verbs. The example with the verb comer (to eat) is very illustrative: Elvira está comiendo (Elvira is eating) and Elvira está dando comida (Elvira is giving food) don't mean the same thing. But you can get away with it if you use the verb alimentar (to feed): Elvira está alimentando and Elvira está dando alimento mean exactly the same: "Elvira is feeding." 

Here are more examples:

Me tiene dando vueltas como torbellino.

You have me spinning like a whirlwind.

Caption 61, Calle 13 - Cumbia de los Aburridos

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Ahí le vamos dando la forma, despacio.

There we go about shaping it, slowly. [There we go about giving it shape, slowly]

Caption 26, Recetas de cocina - Arepas colombianas

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Here is another example with a slightly different construction but the same principle:

Otras más polémicas son las de la Virgen María dando el pecho en el portal de Belén.

Other more controversial ones are those of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding in the Nativity scene.

Caption 12, Europa Abierta - Joaquín Pérez - Escultor de belenes

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By the way, in Spanish, there is also a verb for breast-feeding, it's amamantar. So it's also correct to say la Virgen María amamantando en el portal de Belén (the Virgin Mary breast-feeding in Bethlehem's stable).


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