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Portuguese Verb “Dar”: An Idiomatic Gem

If you ask me what are the most frequently used Portuguese verbs, I’d certainly include dar on that list – this verb is an idiomatic gem.

Dar means give in English. However, given the great number of set phrases and idioms making use of this verb, its usage goes well beyond its literal meaning. In this article, we will be exploring dar’s idiomatic riches.

Before we dive into it, let’s take a brief look at some of dar’s basic tenses:

 PresentePretérito perfeitoPretérito imperfeito
Eudoudeidava
Tudásdestedavas
Ele/eladeudava
Nósdamosdemosdávamos
Vocêsdãoderamdavam
Eles/elasdãoderamdavam
    
  Past participledado
  Present participledando

Here’s our table of contents:

A few things to keep in mind!

The focus here is not on dar’s conjugation and tenses. If needed, refer to online verb-conjugation tools – Reverso Conjugation is one of them.

In what follows, I will walk you through various idiomatic uses of dar with concrete examples. If at some point you need guidance concerning Portuguese verb tenses and their usage, take a look at the following article: Portuguese verb usage and tenses: a practical guide anchored to English.

Finally, while the majority of the examples apply to both European and Brazilian standards of Portuguese, there may be a few of them that are Portugal-specific. Curious about how the Brazilian and European standards of Portuguese compare? Go ahead and read this article: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – how different are they really?

Common usage

Give

As mentioned before, we use dar the same way we use give in English. A few examples:

Eles deram um carro novo ao filho
They gave their son a brand-new car.

Dava a minha vida por ti.
I’d give my life for you.

Vais-me dar as notícias?
Will you give me the news?

Ela deu o seu melhor.
She gave of her best.

Possibility

Dar is used to express possibility*, that is, whether or not something is doable. In this context, dar is often followed by the preposition para. Here’re a few examples:

Ela tem tempo livre amanhã e vai dar para visitar os seus pais.
She has time off tomorrow and she will be able to visit her parents.

O dinheiro que me deste não deu para comprar o bilhete.
The money you gave me was not enough to buy the ticket.

Esta câmara também dá para filmar.
This camera can also be used for shooting film.

– Podes-me dar uma ajuda?
– Desculpa, hoje não vai dar (para te ajudar).
– Can you give me a hand?
– Sorry, that won’t be possible today.

* There is also, of course, the modal verb poder (can) to express possibility. Here’s a post where you can learn more about Portuguese modal verbs: Portuguese Equivalents of English Modal Verbs.

Leading to

The verb dar is also used in the sense of leading to or facing (in a spatial sense).  Either way, you will see a preposition of place or movement accompanying the verb. Here’re a few examples:

Este corredor vai dar à sala de reuniões.
This hallway will lead to the meeting room.

Esta estrada vai dar a Lisboa.
This road goes to Lisboa.

A janela do teu quarto dá para o parque.
The window of your sleeping room faces the park.

Result

We say dar to express that something will (or will not) work out well. The set phrase dar certo is commonly used in this context. A few examples:

Não te preocupes, vai dar tudo certo.
Don’t you worry, everything will be fine.

– Falaste com a Sara?
– Sim, infelizmente não deu certo.
– Did you talk to Sara?
– I did, unfortunately, it didn’t go that well.

Não faças isso porque vai dar asneira.
Don’t do that because it will get you into trouble.

Isso não vai dar em nada.
That’s not going to work.

Figuring out

We often say dar to express whether or not someone succeeds in figuring out something. Also, when we see something that we wouldn’t expect (there’s an element of surprise), for instance, when we catch someone doing something sneaky. Either way, dar will be followed by the conjunction com (with). A few examples:

A Joana não conseguiu dar com a minha casa.
Joana couldn’t find my house.

Tanto procurei que dei com as chaves do carro.
I kept on searching until I found the car keys.

dei com ou problema.
I already know what the problem is.

Ontem dei com o Manual a fumar.
Yesterday I saw Manuel smoking.

Realizing

Dar contadar por ela or dar por si are set phrases that mean to notice something. Here are some examples:

Hoje dei conta que me faltava dinheiro.
Today I realized that some of my money was missing.

Quando dei por ela já era tarde.
When I noticed, it was already late.

– Alguém esteve aqui. Não deste conta de nada?
– Nao, não dei conta de nada.
– Someone was here. Didn’t you notice anything?
– No, I didn’t see anything.

Quando dei por mim já passava da meia noite.
When I realized, it was past midnight.

Trending

O que está a dar is a set phrase indicating that something is in vogue. Here are a few examples:

O que está andar agora é comprar second-hand.
What is trendy now is to buy second-hand.

– O que é que está na moda agora?
O que está a dar é a dieta paleo.
– What’s in right now?
– People are talking about the paleo diet.

Rapport

We use the verb dar to express whether or not people get along with one another. Furthermore, we say dar to indicate whether or not someone, in general, feels settled and happy in their current circumstances. 

In either case, we will be using the reflexive conjugation of the verb, that is, dar will be followed by a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se). A few examples:

A Joana dá-se bem com o Pedro.
Joana gets along with Pedro.

A Júlia e a Flávia dão-se mal.
Júlia and Flávia don’t get along.

Eu estou a viver em Itália e dou-me bem aqui.
I am living in Italy and I like it here.

O António não se dá a viver em Londres.
António is not happy living in London.

Matching

The verb dar is used to express aesthetic matches (or mismatches). Here are a few examples. In this context, dar is often followed by the adverb bem:

Essa carteira azul não dá bem com a tua saia verde.
That blue purse doesn’t really match your green skirt.

As paredes brancas e lisas dão bem com o vosso estilo minimalista.
The plain white walls agree well with your minimalist style.

Undergoing hardship

Dar is used to expressing that someone falls prey to something undesirable, often related to health. In this case, we use pronominal conjugation (the verb is accompanied by personal object pronouns such as me, te, lhe). Here are a few examples:

Ontem deu-me uma dor de cabeça fortíssima.
Yesterday I got one of those intense headaches.

Está-me a dar um ataque de pânico. Ajuda-me!
I’m having a panic attack. Help me!

Sabes a Sofia? Deu-lhe algo ruim e agora está internada no hospital.
Do you know Sofia? Something bad happened to her and she is now in hospital.

Se ele continuar a comer assim vai-lhe dar um ataque de coração.
If he carries on eating like this, he will get a heart attack.

Set phrases and idioms

Dar uma mão
Podes dar-me uma mão?
Lend a hand
Can you give me a hand?
Dar aulas
Amanhã vou dar aulas.
Teach
Tomorrow I will be teaching.
Dar em maluco
Estou a dar em maluco com tanto barulho.
Go crazy
I am going crazy with all this noise.
Dar os parabéns
Queria dar-te os parabéns.
Congratulate
I’d like to congratulate you.
Dar um jeito
Podes-me dar um jeito?
Do a favor
Will you do me a favor?
Dar jeito
Dava-me jeito ter um carro.
Handy
It would be handy to have a car.
Dar atenção
Por que não me dás mais atenção?
To pay attention
Why don’t you listen to me?
Dá-lhe!
De que estás à espera? Dá-lhe!
Do it!
What are you waiting for? Go for it!
Dá cá mais cinco!
Boa, dá cá mais cinco!
Give me five!
Well done, give me five!
Dar de si
Ele esteve cinco meses sob pressão e começou a dar de si.
Give in
He’d been under pressure for five months and eventually started to give in. 
Dar igual
– Queres branco ou tinto?
– Dá-me igual.
All the same
– Will you drink white or red wine?
– It doesn’t matter.
Quem me dera
Quem me dera que estivesses aqui agora.
I wish
I wish you were here now.
Dar à língua
Aqueles passam o dia a dar à língua.
Chit chat
They spend the day small talking.
Dar contas
Tu não podes fazer como queres. Tens que me dar contas das tuas ações e planos.
Report (accountability)
You can’t do as you please. You ought to keep me informed about your actions and plans.
Dar conta do recado
Achas que eles dão conta do recado?
Manage a situation
Do you think they will live up to the challenge?
Dar uma volta
Queres dar uma volta?
Go for a walk
Are you up for a walk?
Dar que falar
Ui! isso vai dar que falar
Generates talk (controversial)
Gosh! That will make people want to talk
Dar com o gato
Já dei com o gato. Resolvido.
Find out the problem
I’ve already found out what the problem was. Done.
Dar à sola
Eles ficaram com medo e deram à sola.
Run away
They got scared and ran away.
Dar à luz
A Isabel deu à luz um belo menino.
Give birth
Isabel gave birth to a beautiful boy.
Dar à graxa
Para de dar à graxa!
Ingratiate
Stop ingratiating!
Dar em nada
As ideias do Joel nunca dão em nada.
Fiasco
Joel’s ideas never work.
Dar no duro
Aqueles gajos estão a dar no duro.
Work hard
Those guys are working hard.
Dar início
Vamos então dar início à reunião.
Begin
Let’s begin the meeting then.
Dar-se por vencido
Ele nunca se dá por vencido.
Give up
He never gives up.
Dar a mão à palmatória
Tenho que dar a mão à palmatória a ambos.
To concede
I’ve got to hand it to you both.
Dar pano para mangas
Esta conversa dá pano para mangas.
Overflow, abundance
We could stay up all night having this talk.
Não dar uma para a caixa
Não dás uma para a caixa.
Always off the mark
You never do things right.
Dar o nó
Eles deram o nó em em 2008 e separaram-se em 2020.
Get married
They got married in 2008 and divorced in 2020.
Dar um salto
Vou dar um salto ao supermercado.
Drop by
I’m going to drop by the supermarket.
Dar com a língua nos dentes
A Sara deu com a língua nos dentes. Não posso confiar mais nela.
Blow the whistle
Sara started talking. I can no longer trust her.
Dar o berro
O motor do meu carro deu o berro quando estava a caminho de Lisboa.
Stop working
My car’s engine seized up when I was on my way to Lisbon.
Não se dar por achado
A Carolina não se dá por achada.
Play dumb
Carolina keeps pretending to not understand.
Dar andamento
Temos de dar andamento ao projeto.
Hold something in motion
We’ve got to keep the project going.
Dar nas vistas
O Miguel gosta de dar nas vistas.
Stand out
Miguel likes to stand out.
Dar água pelas barbas
Este negócio está-nos a dar água pelas barbas.
Hurdles
This deal is giving us trouble, big time.
Dar cabo de
Se não deixas de comer tantos doces dás cabo da tua saúde.
Destroy, harm
If you don’t stop eating that many sweets you will ruin your health.

In-context

To end this dar-journey with a flourish, let’s look at a dialogue between Sónia and Júlio who ran into each other on the street and started catching up. Throughout their conversation, dar pops up several times dressed up in different meanings.

A Sónia e o Júlio encontram-se na rua
Sónia and Júlio run into each other on the street

– Ó Júlio, que surpresa! Já não te via há muito tempo. Tu andas desaparecido, que te deu? Andas bem? 
– Júlio, what a surprise! Long time no see. You’ve been gone for a while. Did something happen? Are you alright? 

– Sim ando bem obrigado, embora com muito trabalho. Estava precisamente no escritório a trabalhar e decidi fazer uma pausa para dar uma volta … 
– Yes, everything is fine thank you, though I’ve had a lot of work to do lately. I was working at the office and decided to take a break and go for a walk. 

– Ah pois! O que está a dar é dar voltas. Sempre enfiado em casa ou no escritório é que não, a gente dá em maluco
– Oh well! that’s what we all should do more often: go for walks. You can’t be always stuck at home or work, you’d go crazy! 

– Sem dúvida. E tu? Dá-me notícias, quero saber as novidades. 
– Absolutely. What about you? Give me news! I want to know what you are up to these days. 

– Novidades? Olha, comecei a fazer surf, vê lá. É o que está a dar agora pelos vistos, quase todos os meus amigos fazem surf …. e eu fui atrás. 
– News? Well, I started surfing, can you believe it? It is trendy right now apparently. Almost all my friends are doing it …  and I just followed along. 

Não dá para acreditar, tu a fazer surf!? Quem diria … E onde costumas surfar, diz-me lá. 
– No way! You’re surfing? Who knew …? Where do you usually go surfing? Tell me. 

– Na Ericeira claro. Lá as ondas são boas para o surf, e dá-me jeito porque fica perto de casa. Junta-se o útil ao agradável. 
– To Ericeira, of course. The waves there are good for surfing. Besides, it is handy because it is nearby home.

– Pois é, lá isso é verdade. É sabido que na praia da Ericeira dá boa onda. A mim é que me dava jeito ter assim uma atividade dessas para quebrar a rotina. Se calhar também me aventuro, e um dia destes apareço lá na praia com a prancha debaixo do braço.
– Sure, that’s true. Everyone knows that Ericeira is a great spot for surfing. I should also get into something like that to break with routine. Maybe I’ll also give it try and one of these days I’ll show up with a surfboard under my arm. 

– E então de que é que estás à espera? Anda, dá-lhe!
– What are you waiting for? Come on, just do it! 

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