BLACK FRIDAY CYBER MONDAY SAVE 25% ON ANY PACKAGE »

Using dársele bien/mal algo to say you are good/bad at something/doing something

When we want to express that we are good or bad at something or at doing something, we can use the verb dar in the following way:

darse [a alguien] bien/mal [algo] 

Let's see some examples using the present tense:

Se me da bien el tenis.I am good at tennis.

Se me dan mal las matemáticas.I am bad at maths.

Se le da bien jugar con niños pequeños.She/he is / You [formal singular] are good at playing with small children.

Se os dan bien los instrumentos de cuerda.You [plural informal] are good at string instruments.

Puedo ver que se te da muy mal el bádminton. ¡Prueba el baloncesto!I can see that you are not very good at badmington. Try basketball!

There are several things to highlight and remember about this structure:

  1. The verb is always used in its pronominal form (darse bien/mal)
  2. 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...
  3. 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.
  4. As with the verb gustar, we always use the definite article with what you are good/bad at, e.g "el tenis, las matemáticas..."
  5. 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:

A Francisco se le da muy mal entretener a los invitados.Francisco is not very good at entertaining guests.

A mis padres se les da bien organizar barbacoas.My parents are very good at organising barbecues.

A mí se me da bien contar chistes.I am good at telling jokes.

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...

A mí siempre se me ha dado fatal hablar en público.I've always been awful at speaking in public.

A mi abuela se le da de maravilla hacer punto.My grandma is great at knitting.

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:

Cuando eras pequeño, ¿se te daba bien montar en monopatín?When you were little, where you any good at skateboarding?

A Lucía se le daban de maravilla los crucigramas pero ahora no le interesan.Lucía was really good at crosswords but now she is not interested.

A usted nunca se le ha dado muy bien hablar en público, ¿verdad?You have never been very good at speaking in public, have you? [formal singular "you"]

Siempre se os ha dado fatal mentir.You've always been really bad at lying. [informal plural "you"]

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:

El piano se me da fatal pero la trompeta se me da genial.I play the piano really badly but I'm really good at the trumpet.

Los idiomas en general siempre se me han dado muy bien. I've always been very good at languages in general.

The equivalent in a simpler way for this structure could be:

ser + adjective + en [noun]/gerund

For example:

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.  

See also:

 

Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Cuando eras pequeño, ¿se te daba bien montar en monopatín?When you were little, where you any good at skateboarding?
A mi abuela se le da de maravilla hacer punto.My grandma is great at knitting.
Se le da bien jugar con niños pequeños.She/he is / You [formal singular] are good at playing with small children.
Puedo ver que se te da muy mal el bádminton. ¡Prueba el baloncesto!I can see that you are not very good at badmington. Try basketball!
El piano se me da fatal pero la trompeta se me da genial.I play the piano really badly but I'm really good at the trumpet.
A Laura se le da de maravilla la decoracón de interior.Laura is really good at interior design.
A usted nunca se le ha dado muy bien hablar en público, ¿verdad?You have never been very good at speaking in public, have you? [formal singular "you"]
Los idiomas en general siempre se me han dado muy bien. I've always been very good at languages in general.
A mí siempre se me ha dado fatal hablar en público.I've always been awful at speaking in public.
Se me da bien el tenis.I am good at tennis.
Siempre se os ha dado fatal mentir.You've always been really bad at lying. [informal plural "you"]
A Lucía se le daban de maravilla los crucigramas pero ahora no le interesan.Lucía was really good at crosswords but now she is not interested.
A mis padres se les da bien organizar barbacoas.My parents are very good at organising barbecues.
Se os dan bien los instrumentos de cuerda.You [plural informal] are good at string instruments.
A mí se me da bien contar chistes.I am good at telling jokes.
A Francisco se le da muy mal entretener a los invitados.Francisco is not very good at entertaining guests.
Se me dan mal las matemáticas.I am bad at maths.
Let me take a look at that...