Being good or bad at something in Spanish
When we want to express that we are good or bad at something or at doing something in Spanish, we can use the verb dar in the following way:
Let's see some examples using the present tense:
There are several things to highlight and remember about this structure:
- The verb is always used in its pronominal form (darse bien/mal)
- To indicate the person who is good or bad at something we use the indirect object pronouns (me, te, le, nos, os, les), and these are placed between se and the verb dar conjugated, e.g, se me da..., se os dan...
- This structure works the same way gustar does, so we use the verb in the 3rd person singular if we are talking about being good or bad at something (singular) or an activity using the infinitive, e.g, se me da bien el tenis or se me da bien jugar al tenis. But if we are talking about something that is plural we use the verb in the 3rd person plural, e.g. se me dan mal las matemáticas.
- As with the verb gustar, we always use the definite article with what you are good/bad at, e.g "el tenis, las matemáticas..."
- If we mention more precisely who is good/bad at something, then we need to use "a + who", or "a + pronoun", as the following examples show:
Remember to use the preposition "a" -it is a common mistake to omit it:
Mis padres se les da bien organizar barbacoas.
We often use the adverbs bien/mal for well and bad/badly, but you could also use other similar adverbs like: genial, estupendamente, fatal, de maravilla...
This structure can be used with different tenses in the past and future as well but the past tenses that are more frequently and more naturally used with this expression are El Pretérito Imperfecto and El Pretérito Perfecto. Have a look at some examples:
Bear in mind that we can also place the subject, i.e. what one is good/bad at in the beginning of the sentence without changing the meaning, for example:
The equivalent in a simpler way for this structure could be:
Yo soy muy bueno en bádminton.
I'm very good at badminton.
Yo soy muy bueno jugando al bádminton.
I'm very good at playing badminton.
Carlos es malísimo en matemáticas.
Carlos is really bad at maths.
Carlos es malísimo resolviendo problemas de matemáticas.
Carlos is really bad at solving mathematical problems.
Mi hermano es buenísimo con la guitarra. La toca muy bien.
My brother is really good with the guitar. He can play it very well.
Estos tres estudiantes no son buenos para los deportes.
These three students aren't good at sports.
- Spanish expressions with "dar/darse"
- Darle a alguien por [hacer] algo = to take up something/to feel like doing something (perífrasis verbal)
- Using dar algo por + past participle/adjective
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