Give and Take

This page introduces vocabulary relating to giving, taking, and receiving and its use in different contexts. Words and phrases relating to transactions either socially or in business are included here.

‘Por’ and ‘para’, variations of ‘for’ are easily confused and have different uses such as ‘by’, through, along and ‘for’ in different contexts. These, along with various idiomatic uses are dealt with here too.


Giving, taking and receiving are closely related concepts, needing care in how, where and when you use them, and this especially applies to the verb ‘to take’ as you will see later.  In English we frequently have multiple uses for words, and in the case of ‘give’ and ‘take’ the equivalents are explained here – some more straightforward and easily recognised than others. We also use ‘give’ and ‘take’ in so-called ‘phrasal verbs’ like ‘take pity’ or ‘give in’, which don’t translate directly into other languages. You’ll find some of these addressed in this section with their closest Spanish equivalents.

Por and para are words frequently confused, particularly because por sounds very similar to the English ‘for’, but this is largely where the similarity ends.  Useful phrases include the verbs ‘give’, ‘take’ and ‘receive’ and the prepositions ‘for’ and ‘by’, so these combinations are also conveniently dealt with here.

Key Verbs

dar – to give

tomar – to take

coger – to grab, catch, take

acoger – to receive (guests)

recibir – to receive

negociar – to negociate

pedir – to ask for / request

entregar – deliver / hand over

conseguir – to get / obtain

encontrar – to find (e.g. a job)

buscar – to seek / look for

traer – to bring, get (object)

alcanzar – acquire / get (e.g. a reputation)

ganar – to win / get (a prize)

sacar por – get for (e.g. in a transaction / sale)

The key verbs dar (to give) , tomar or coger (to take) , and recibir (to receive).  However in different contexts you will need to use different equivalents, for example to receive guests uses the verb acoger. To take a drink, some food, or a shower would be tomar una bebida, for example, but to take or grab a piece of paper, for example, would be coger un papel and to catch a bus is coger un autobus. So it’s best to learn use of these verbs in context.

Although tomar and recibir are regular ‘-ar’ and ‘-ir’ verbs, coger and dar are irregular, so these main verbs are conjugated in the present tense and participles in the table below. 

Present indicative  
To give
To take
To seize / grab / take
To receive
Yo Doy (give) Tomo Cojo (grab) Recibo
Das Tomas (take) Coges Recibes (receive)
él /ella  /usted (Vd.) Da (gives) Toma (takes) Coge (grabs) Recibe (receives)
nosotros/as Damos Tomamos Cogemos Recibimos
vosotros/as Dais Tomáis  Cogéis Recibís 
ellos/ellas /  Vds. Dan Toman Cogen Reciben (receive)
Present participle (~ing) Dando Tomando Cogiendo Recibiendo
Past participle Dado (gave) Tomado (took) Cogido (seized) Recibido (received)

The above gives the present tense but of course you’ll also need to familiarise yourself with past and future tenses. However for simplicity, using the composite future (‘going to’ + infinitive), and past perfect (have + past participle) will usually be enough to get the message across.

In Latin America it’s best to use tomar for ‘to take’, as you’ll probably find the ‘seize’ meaning of coger is taken to an extreme – to take (someone) sexually, equivalent of ‘to f**k’. Be warned.

Related words and phrases

Some useful related words, with different connotations of giving and taking, include the following:

Dotado is an adjective for ‘gifted’ or talented

Prestar atención a is ‘to give/pay attention to …’    

‘To send’ can be mandar, or enviar, but mandar is more colloquial. Mandar can also be used for ‘to order’ or ‘command’ or even ‘to lead’. To send off (e.g. to dispatch goods or a parcel) is despachar.

Un regalo is a gift , and the verb regalar is ‘to give (as a present)’               

Un recibo is a receipt    (la) recaudación  means the receipts / takings, e.g. of a business.

[note that una receta is a prescription, so is a ‘false friend’ between English and Spanish]       

un/una recepcionista – receptionist (both genders) un/una recibidor(a) – recipient

To take (something) from/out of … is sacar (algo) de ; to take from a person is quitar (algo) a      

Examinarse de is’to take an exam in…’

‘To take (require)’ is exigir in a context like ‘It takes 3 days’ – exige 3 días

Phrasal Verbs, their Spanish equivalents and uses

Give away / reveal – revelar ; give away (for free) – regalar

Give back – devolver               

Give (hand) in – entregar

Give (an activity) up – dejar deGive up / turn downrenunciar a Give up/in – rendirse

Take away – llevar take (oneself) away – llevarse‘to take away’ (food, drink etc) – para llevar

Take a photo – sacar un foto

Take care – Cuidar     take (good) care! – ¡cuidate (bien)             

Take down (remove/deconstruct) –  derribar

Take off (clothes) – quitarse     Take on ( a task/role) – aceptar   

Take offence at … – ofenderse por

Take pity –  compadecer or compadecerse de … for ‘to take pity …’

Take over … – tomar posesión de …    for example a business

Overtake – adelantar for a vehicle or sobrepasar for to exceed, e.g. to overtake expectations

Comparing meanings and use of por and para:

More than ‘for’ !

Por – means, motive and exchange

Situations that use por often involve different things, or cause and effect, happening at the same time. Something is (or often was) being achieved using a particular means ; a motive is (or was) being fulfilled while something is being done ; one thing is being exchanged for another. This is a useful rule of thumb, even if it doesn’t clearly apply to every situation. (Oh for language to be that simple!)

Means relates to the way /method something is done or happens, e.g. by bicycle, via London, through the door. So something is being done by doing something else – getting somewhere by using a bike or following a route for example.

De vacaciones viajamos por coche. – On holiday we travel by car.

Entra por la puerta en la derecha. Go in through the door on the right.

Motive is about a need being met through something else happening, both of which occur(ed) at the same time. For example:

¿Puedo hacerlo por usted? One person needs help and another is helping. Doing something for someone takes at least a little time and is fulfilling the need while it is all happening.

Está vigilando por proteger los nadadores. He’s watching to protect the swimmers.

Exchange is when a transfer takes place such as giving or swapping, e.g. thank you for the gift; exchanging currency. In these cases the ‘thank you’ is in exchange for the gift and one currency is exchanged for another.

Quisiera cambiar libras esterlinas por euros. – I’d like to change Sterling for Euros.

Gracias por su hospitalidad. Thank you for your hospitality.

Para – purpose, destination and suitability

Situations using para usually follow a sequence, one after another: Something is done to achieve a purpose later ; something leaves one place and later arrives somewhere else ; something happens, and then someone gives an opinion. As for por, this is a slight over-generalisation, but is a good rule of thumb.

Purpose relates to the intended function of an action, e.g. in order to learn, for communication, to win the game. Although close to ‘motive’, there is usually a separation between one action and the outcome .

Estudio español para poder trabajar allí . I am studying Spanish to be able to (so that I can) work there.

El equipo necesita un nuevo entrenador para ganar mas partidos. The team needs a new coach (in order) to win more games.

Destination relates to situations where there intended endpoint of a journey or movement, e.g. the train leaves for Madrid; the flight for (to) Heathrow, and (potentially confusingly) giving a gift. In all these cases there is a final destination which receives something (a train, flight or gift) without exchange.

¿Es el tren para Madrid?. – Is it the train for (to) Madrid?

El regalo es para ti. The gift is for you.

Suitability focuses on an opinion of whether something is right or appropriate, so para is used here with an adjectives such as ‘too small for him’, ‘the right tool for the job’ or ‘For me, …’ (In my opinion, …).

La camiseta es demasiado caro para mi. The t-shirt is too expensive for me.

¿Para tí, cual es el mejor jugador? For you, who’s the best player?

Idiomatic uses of por and para

Por aquí  – around here

por eso – for that reason / that’s why

¿por qué? – why (for what?)

porque – because (for the reason that)

por día/mes/semana – per day/month / week

por la mañana / tarde – in the morning / afternoon / evening

por correo electrónico – by email

por ejemplo – for example

por consiguiente – consequently / as a result

por último – at last, finally

para mí – in my opinion

¿Para qué? – what for? (For what purpose?)

para llegar/salir – about to arrive/leave

ir para casa – to go home

dejalo para mañana – leave it for tomorrow

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