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I am reading Jorge Luis Borges, "The Cruel Redeemer" "http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/borges-fictions.html.

According to Google Translate, the phrase, "Murió y le dieron por sepultura sus aguas" means:

He died and they buried his waters

But, if I translate this, literally, it means, "He died, and they gave (through his grave) their waters." I'm not sure what the they is referring to. In the short story's actual translation, it is:

When de Soto died, the river's waters were his grave.

I'd like to get clarification on whether the they is referring to the river's waters. Or, is it that sus is actually its, but since water is plural, you have to use "sus aguas" instead of su aguas?

Thanks!

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    A more accurate but still literal translation would be "He died and was given its [i.e., the river's] waters as a grave".
    – JMVanPelt
    Mar 28, 2017 at 5:10
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    As explained, dar + sthg. + por means "to give/provide sthg. as" (dar como means the same). It's just a bit archaic. Not to confuse with dar por muerto which means "to leave for dead", "to assume sbdy. is dead".
    – pablodf76
    Mar 28, 2017 at 10:57
  • This is the most literal I can get it, to help you understand the original: He died, and for burial he was given its waters (where "its waters" refers to the waters of the Mississippi). "For burial" = "as burial." Mar 30, 2017 at 6:00
  • He died and they made his tomb the river waters or waters of the Mississippi. dar x por is make x a y. That is the structure here.
    – Lambie
    Sep 11, 2023 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

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It actually refers that they have thrown his corpse to the river.

The actual fragment:

EL LUGAR

El Padre de las Aguas, el Mississippi, el río más extenso del mundo, fue el digno teatro de ese incomparable canalla. (Álvarez de Pineda lo descubrió y su primer explorador fue el capitán Hernando de Soto, antiguo conquistador del Perú, que distrajo los meses de prisión del Inca Atahualpa enseñándole el juego del ajedrez. Murió y le dieron por sepultura sus aguas.)

El Mississippi es río de pecho ancho; […]

- Jorge Luis Borges, Uruguay
El atroz redentor Lazarus Morell

"Dar por sepultura sus aguas" means that what they had was the waters of the river and used that as a grave, thus...

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According to Wikipedia: "De Soto had encouraged the local natives to believe that he was a deity, specifically an "immortal Son of the Sun," as a ploy to gain their submission without conflict. Some of the natives had already become skeptical of de Soto's deity claims, so his men were anxious to conceal his death. The actual site of his burial is not known. According to one source, de Soto's men hid his corpse in blankets weighted with sand and sank it in the middle of the Mississippi River during the night."

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