“Dare” and verbs of giving

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The Italian verb dare is most often used with the meaning to give,”  or literally, “to hand over” something to someone else. When the object “handed over” is a gift, dare may be used to describe this action or the more specific verbs of gift-giving may come into play, such as regalare (to give a gift) and  donare (to donate).

To truly sound like a native Italian, learn the quintessential Italian interjection, “Dai!” from the second person conjugation of dare.

The Italian verb dare is also an integral part of an important Italian expression, “dare del tu,” which allows  one to change an Italian conversation from a formal, or polite conversation to a familiar conversation between friends. For an in-depth discussion about how to use “Dare del tu,” and its counterpart, “Dare del Lei,” visit our previous blog: “Becoming friends with ‘Dare del tu.'”

Many other expressions use dare, regalare and donare. The reflexive verb darsi means “to exchange.” “Darsi a” means “to “dedicate oneself to something,” and in the extreme sense, “darsi a” can even be translated as the English idiomatic expression, “to go wild for…”

The reflexive forms of regalare and donare also stretch the original meaning of each verb when applying it to the individual. Although the non-reflexive forms are interchangeable, the reflexive forms of regalare and donare have very different meanings. Regolarsi means “to treat oneself,” and donarsi “to dedicate oneself.” 

Finally, dare can even be used as a noun to mean “debit” or “debt”!

When evaluating the broad list of meanings attributed to dare,
it quickly becomes evident that dare is a verb that stretches its primary definition of “to give”
to fit many different situations.

Many common, every-day Italian expressions start with dare. Each word in these expressions usually does not translate one-for-one with the common English expressions that holds a similar meaning; you can think of the expressions that use dare as just another way of looking at things, or another way of relating the same idea.

See the second-to last section below for a selection of the most common expressions that use dare.


 

Grammar for the  Italian Verb

Dare

A note about the Italian grammar for dare from a previous blog:

In the blog “He Said,/She Said… in Italian!” Italian “verbs of giving” were listed as one of the groups of Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns. 

A selection from this group of verbs is reprinted below:

Some Italian verbs of giving that take indirect object pronouns:

Dare to give
Offrire to offer
Donare
Regalare
to gift
Mandare to send
Portare to bring/deliver

Adding an indirect object pronoun before the verb dare (and the other verbs of giving listed above) will allow the speaker to describe to whom something was given. Note that English uses direct object pronouns instead (for instance “him” and “her”). We must learn to “think in Italian” to use this verb, especially since the English translation will not match exactly!

The sentence structure to use with object pronouns differs between English and Italian as well. In English, when we use the indirect object pronouns “to me,” “to you,” “to him/her,” they are placed after the verb, while in Italian, they are placed before the verb.  This may take some time to get used to. 

 

A note about the Italian grammar for dare in the past tense from a previous blog:

In conversation, the verbs of giving are often used in the passato prossimo past tense. The past participle dato (gave), for instance, is used to describe the one time event when a special gift was bestowed — such as during a birthday or a holiday.

To construct a sentence in the passato prossimo with dare, first remember that in conversational Italian, by convention, the subject pronouns (lui/lei in our examples) are usually omitted.  This convention, along with rule that Italian indirect object pronouns are placed before the verb, will result in an indirect object pronoun starting the Italian sentence! The conjugated form of dare to reflect the speaker will then follow the indirect object pronoun. 

The subject pronouns are given in parentheses in the first example below to emphasize the passato prossimo conjugation of dare is in the third person for the conjugation table. The indirect object pronouns are in red.

(Lui/Lei) ha dato He gave / She gave
Mi ha dato He gave/ She gave to me
Ti ha dato He gave/ She gave to you
Gli ha dato He gave / She gave to him
 Le ha dato He gave / She gave to her

 

Keep in mind that…
although the Italian grammar for dare
is complicated, it is also useful in understanding
the many meanings of dare!

 


 

Conjugation of the  Italian Verb

Dare

Let’s talk about how to conjugate the irregular verb dare in the present, present progressive, familiar command, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences.

Present tense: Given that dare is composed of only four letters, if we remove three of these by taking away the -are ending to create the present tense conjugation, we are left with a stem that is comprised of only the letter “d.” To maintain the musical sound of Italian with this short verb, dare has several irregular forms; additional letters are added to the usual present tense endings, in effect creating additional syllables to keep the language flowing smoothly. The irregular endings are in red.

Present Tense Dare

io do
tu dai
Lei/lei/lui dà
noi diamo
voi  date
loro danno

Present Progressive Tense: The gerund dando will also be important to create the present progressive tense with stare for a commonly used expression discussed in the next section.

Familiar command forms: the tu familiar command forms of dare are dai or dà. Both are used frequently in Italian expressions.

The present tense noi form of dare, diamo, is also used as the noi familiar command from.  The translations differ, however; the familiar command is translated as, “Let’s do… “

The plural you, voi familiar command form, is date.

Notice that the familiar command forms dai, diamo and date
are identical to the present tense conjugations of dare! 

Familiar Command Forms Dare

io
tu dà/dai
Lei 
noi diamo
voi  date
loro

 

Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, avere is used for the helping verb with the regular past participle dato.

Dare has a regular conjugation in the imperfetto past tense: (davo, davi, dava, davamo, davate, davano).

Future tense: Dare is irregular for all conjugations, as the “ar” does not change to an “er” prior to adding the final ending: (darò, darai, darà, daremo, darete, daranno). 

 ******************************

The other verbs of giving that are the focus of this blog, regolare and donare are regular in all tenses and take avere as the helping verb in the passato prossimo.


 

1. Use dare to describe the act of “giving” something to someone else, or literally, “handing over” something to another

  • The Italian verb dare is most often used with the simple meaning of to give,”  meaning literally, “to hand over” something to someone else. When describing the action of “giving” an object to another, use dare. Of course, as people we have many intangible needs and dare can be used in these situations as well.
  • If someone has something we need, the familiar command form of dare comes into play when making a request. The request can be for an object, as well as something intangible, like a bit of help. Both English and Italian speakers often ask for help with the expression, “Give me a hand!” When making a request of this kind in Italian, the tu command form “da” is combined with the indirect object pronoun, most commonly mi, to make, “Dammi… for “Give me… ” Notice that in the familiar command form the indirect object pronoun mi comes after the verb, is attached directly to the verb da, and the first letter of mi is doubled when written.  See examples below for some common command phrases that use dare and visit a previous blog in this series, “Talking with family and friends using familiar Italian commands” to learn more about how to create familiar commands in Italian.*
  • If you are “just looking around” a shop, and don’t need the shopkeeper’s assistance at the moment,  use the present progressive form of dare and say, “Sto (solo) dando un’ occhiata.” “I’m just looking.”
  • Many times, we will want to describe our happiness about a present we have received. For this one time event, use the passato prossimo and an indirect object pronoun, as described in the first section of this blog.

Present tense, present progressive tense, and familiar command examples are given below for the verb dare. All of the short, conjugated forms of dare are given in green in the examples so they stand out in the sentence.

Remember to use indirect object pronouns with dare! This will be most evident with the third person singular forms (gli=to him and le = to her), and the indirect object pronouns will be given in red.

Notice from the translations below that the English equivalent uses the direct object pronouns (such as him and her) and remember that the subject pronoun is usually omitted in Italian, so it is given in parentheses. Also, the Italian present tense verbs “stand in” for many different forms of the English present tense! Once you try these examples, you will see it is not as difficult as it may sound to create a sentence with dare!

(Io) Gli do una macchina nuova per il suo compleanno.
I give him (am giving him) a new car for his birthday.

(Io) Le do un braccialetto per il nostro anniversario.
I give her (am giving her) a bracelet for our anniversary.

(Lui/Lei) Mi da una mano ogni giorno al negozio.
He/She gives me a hand (helps me) every day in the shop.

(Io) Sto solo dando un’occhiata.
I’m only looking around. (at items in a shop)

Dammi una mano subito!
(You) Give me a hand right away!

Dategli una mano subito!
(You all) Give him a hand right away!

 

Past tense examples below.

(Io) Gli ho dato una macchina nuova per il suo compleanno.
I gave him a new car for his birthday.

(Io) Le ho dato un braccialetto per il nostro anniversario.
I gave her a bracelet for our anniversary!

(Lui/Lei) Mi ha dato una mano ieri sera al negozio.
He/She gave me a hand last night at the store.

(Lui/Lei) Mi ha dato un buon consiglio su viaggiare in Italia.
He/She gave me good advice about traveling in Italy.

 

*Of course, we can also make a request politely from someone who we do not know well. In this case, the subjunctive mood comes into play as the polite command form, which is beyond the scope of this blog.

 

2. The colorful Italian interjection “Dai!” 

  • The second person present tense conjugation of dare is dai. The simple meaning for this conjugation is “you give” in the familiar “you” for someone you know.
  • “Dai!” is also used as an interjection with the meaning, “Come on!” As an interjection, this short verb becomes one of the most colorful verbs in the Italian language with a change in one’s tone of voice. 
  • “Dai!” can be used in a straightforward, forceful way as a word of encouragement to an individual to complete a task or continue on to reach a goal — as the familiar command form of dare.
  • “Dai!” can be shouted forcefully as encouragement to an athlete or a sports team during a race, soccer match, or other athletic event. This is similar to the way Italians use the words “Forza!” or “Coraggio!” 
  • “Dai…!” can be used with a pleading tone to solicit words or actions from someone, such as a favor, similar to, “C’mon now, please…” 
  • Drag out the single syllable word dai  by placing stress on the last vowel and using an upward and downward tone in your voice to change  the interjection to “Dai…iiiiii!” This gives “Dai!” an ironic tone and the meaning, “Come on!” changes to, “Really?” or “You’ve got to be kidding!” / “You’re joking!” or “Give me a break!” For added emphasis, if you want to be a quintessential Italian, precede dai with the Italian conjugation ma, for but.  With a wave of your hands, say,  “Ma, dai…iiiiii!”  “But, come on!”
  • Let’s not forget another colorful Italian interjection: “Addiriturra!” This interjection can also be used to express surprise or incredulity, with meanings such as,  “Really?” or “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “Give me a break!”  Another use of addiriturra is as an adverb to mean simply, “even” or “directly.”

Dai!  Forza! Coraggio!
Come on! Have strength! Have courage! (encouragement)

Dai…!
Come on now, please…! (solicitation)

Dai…iiiiii!   / Addiriturra!
Come on! (Really?
You’ve got to be kidding! / You’re joking!
Give me a break!)

Ma, Dai…iiiiii!
But, come on! (But really?  But you’ve got to be kidding!)

 

3. Use dare or regalare /regolarsi to describe the act of “giving a present” or “treating oneself”

  • When the object “handed over” is a gift, dare can describe this action, along with one of the specific verbs that mean “to give a gift,” which is “regalare.” The English translation of regalare is usually just “to give” but the Italian verb regolare has the additional meaning of “gifting” imbedded within it. 
  • Regalare usually comes into play to describe giving a birthday or holiday gift.  In fact, the noun regalo means gift. Many times in English when we use the word “get” to refer to “getting a gift” for someone, the more specific verb regalare is used in Italian.
  • To describe giving a gift to someone, the sentence structure [regolare a + name] is often used, the equivalent of using an indirect object pronoun.
  •  Regalare  is also part of the familiar command one might use to try to cheer up a child or significant other: “Give me a smile!” “Regalami un sorriso!” You can even start this phrase with the command form of dare, “Dai!” in a soliciting tone of voice, which in this case means, “Come on!” 
  • Used in the reflexive sense, the verb, regalarsi takes on the meaning of “treating oneself.”

Let’s change up our initial examples for dare, this time using regalare. Remeber to use indirect object pronouns and place them before the verb, as you would with dare!

(Io) Regalo a Marco una macchina nuova per il suo compleanno.
(Io) Gli regalo una macchina nuova per il suo compleanno.
I give Marco (am giving as a gift) a new car for his birthday.
I give him
(am giving as a gift) a new car for his birthday.

(Io) Le regalo un braccialetto per il nostro anniversario.
I give her (am giving her) a bracelet for our anniversary.

(Io)  Gli Ho regalato una macchina nuova per il suo compleanno.
I gave him (as a gift) a new car for his birthday.

(Io) Le ho dato un braccialetto per il nostro anniversario.
I gave her (as a gift) a bracelet for our anniversary!

 

And more examples, specifically for  regalare and regolarsi:

Dai! Regalami un sorriso!
Come on! (request) Give me (the gift of) a smile! 

Non so cosa regolare mia moglie quest’anno per Natale.
I don’t know what to get/give my wife this year for Christmas.

E non vorrei regalare niente al mio capo!
And I don’t want to get/give anything for/to my boss!

(Io) Mi regalo una vacanza in Italia dopo aver finito l’ultimo lavoro!
(am going to) treat myself to a vacation in Italy after I have finished the last job!

(Lui) Si è regalato una cena gustosa al Ristoranti Paoli a Firenze.
He treated himself to a delicious dinner at Ristorante Paoli in Florence.

 

4. Use dare or donare /donarsi to describe the act of “making a donation,” or “giving of oneself” “devoting/dedicating oneself”

  • Donare sounds very much like the English verb “to donate,” and in fact the Italian noun donazione means donation, as in a charitable contribution. Donare can be used to describe giving a holiday gift,  just like dare or regalare, but donare is also reserved for charitable donations. In English, the conjugated from of the verb “to donate” also takes indirect object pronouns, just as in Italian, although the English and Italian sentence structures again follow their own, different rules; the indirect object pronoun is placed after the verb in English.
  • One famous Italian act of charity, the caffè sospeso (suspended coffee) is said to have begun in Naples about 100 years ago and in recent years has had a revival, even spreading to countries around the world. Daily coffee is considered a necessity in Italy, and even a human right to some. Because of this belief, many Italians will order one coffee at the café but pay for two in order to help those less fortunate. The barista keeps track of these donations. When a customer asks if a sospeso is available, the barista then uses a donation to provide the coffee for free (gratis). In 2011, during a time of economic difficulty and government budget cuts, several small Italian festivals were created as part of a “Suspended Coffee Network.”  In December 2011, the Neapolitan governing body declared an annual “Suspended Coffee Day” on December 10, which is also “Human Rights Day” in Italy.
  • Donare is also used to refer to “giving blood” for medical purposes. 
  • Donarsi takes the idea of donating and extends it further with the reflexive form, to mean “giving of oneself” or “devoting/dedicating oneself” to a person or cause.Donarsi a…” is most often used to describe the act of  “devoting/dedicating oneself.”

 

Notice that although the verbs regalare and donare have very similar meanings,
the meanings of regolarsi and donarsi are completely different!

We could use the same examples for donare as in the previous sections on dare and regolare. But below are some new examples that take into account the more specific idea of making a donation.

(Io) Ho donato un sacco di soldi per la chiesa l’anno scorso.
I donated  a lot of money to the church last year.

(Io) Dono un po’ soldi per un caffè sospeso ogni mattina.
I give a little bit of money for a “suspended coffee” every morning.

(Io) Ho donato il sangue all’ospedale ieri.
I donated blood to the hospital yesterday.

 

Examples for donarsi:

(Io) Mi dono a me stesso e ai miei figli ogni giorno.
I dedicate (my time) to myself and my children every day.

(Lei) Si è donata alla musica, escercandosi sei o otto ore al giorno.
She is devoted to music, practicing six or eight hours a day.

5. Use “darsi a” as “to devote/dedicate oneself” and in the extreme to mean “to go wild.”  Use darsi  to mean “to exchange”

  • “Darsi a…” can also be used with the connotation of “devoting/dedicating oneself, ” similar to donarsi.
  • Notice that when another action follows “darsi a,” the second verb will be in the infinitive.
  • To take the meaning of dedication found in darsi a” to the extreme use “darsi a” to describe “going wild” for something or someone.
  • Darsi can also mean “to exchange something,” either literally or figuratively. The most common way to use darsi with this meaning is in the familiar command form, which is “Diamo…,”  and is translated as “Let’s…” When saying, “Let’s exchange…” meaning “give each other,” use dare  with the reflexive pronoun “ci” for “each other.” We’ve seen this use before with, “Diamoci del tu!” in a previous blog.
  • Scambiarsi and cambiare are  Italian verbs that specifically mean “to exchange.” Both are used more frequently for every day conversation than darsi, with the exception of transitioning from polite to familiar speech.

 

(Lui) Si è dato a suonare la musica.
He is devoted to playing music.

(Lui) Si è dato ai festeggiamenti. 
He goes wild at celebrations. 

(Lui) Si è dato a Maria.
He goes wild for Mary.

Diamoci i numeri di telefono!/ gli indirizzi mail!
Let’s exchange telephone numbers / email addresses
with each other!

Diamoci del tu!Let’s speak to each other in the familiar “tu” form.
Let’s exchange/ give each other the “tu”!

 

6. Use dare in these common Italian expressions:

da re
fit for a king / like a king
dare in affitto
dare in prestito… a (qualcuno)
to rent out
to lend out something… to (someone)

 

dare a intendere /
dare l’idea
lead someone to believe… / to give the impression that
to render an idea, to make clear
dare a vedere
to show / to reveal

 

dare ai nervi / dare sui nervi
to get on one’s nerves
dare attenzione
to pay attention to

 

dare consigli
to give advice
dare conto 
to let someone know / to be accountable for

 

dare da fare
to keep someone busy / to keep someone running around
dare da mangiare al… bimbo, cane, gatto /
dare in pasto al pubblico
to feed the baby / dog /  cat
to feed the pubic

 

dare da pensare
to give one cause to think
dare il matto / dare fuori di matto 
to suddenly go crazy angry, to freak out about
to go out of your mind/

dare fastidio / dare noia
to annoy someone / to bore someone
dare di stomaco
to throw up, as in to vomit

6. Use dare as a noun to mean “debt” or “debit”

  • The Italian word dare can be used as a masculine noun — il dare. In this case, it can mean the debit or the debt.
  • Note that il debito also means the debt and l’addebito also means the debit, and these nouns are used more commonly than dare.

Il dare (Il debito) degli Stati Uniti è trenta due trillione di dollari a settembre 2023.
The United States debt is 32 trillion dollars as of September 2023.

La prego, mi dica il dare (l’addebito) nel mio conto /
dare (addebito) nel mio conto.
Please, tell me the debit in my account. /
debit my account.

 

Remember how to use the Italian verb dare
and the verbs of giving, regalare and donare,
and I guarantee you will use these verbs every day!

 

For “All the Italian you need to enjoy your trip to Italy,” click on the links below to purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers books – Kathryn Occhipinti

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
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Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

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About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.

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