"Dame la mano" would mean "give me the hand". Shouldn't it be better to say "give me your hand" by saying "dame tu mano"?

For reference this is the entire phrase coming from spanishdict: "Dame la mano, no vayas a perderte entre tanta gente."


1 Answer 1


"dar la mano" is an idiom. Although we can hear:

  • Dame tu mano.

it's more idiomatic, as well as more logical, to say:

  • Dame la mano. (Who else's hand would you give me if not yours? -- that is, unless we are speaking about somebody's severed hand!)

In Spanish, we tend to use articles rather than possessives with parts of the body in direct object position. This is not only the case with reflexive actions but also with actions performed on others. We prefer to use a pronoun to indicate the recipient of the action and an article rather than the possesive. (Notice the ambiguity with the English possessive in the sentences between parentheses below.)

We thus say:

  • Se lavó la cara. (He/She washed his/her (own) face.)
  • Le lavó la cara (He/She washed his/her (somebody else's) face).

  • Se tocó la frente. (He/She touched his/her (own) forehead.)

  • Le tocó la frente. (He/She touched his/her (somebody else's) forehead.)

  • Se tapó los ojos. (He/She covered his/her (own) eyes.)

  • Le tapó los ojos. (He/She covered his/her (somebody else's) eyes.)

  • Se cortó el pelo. (He/She cut his/her (own) hair -- or had it cut.)

  • Le cortó el pelo. (He/She cut his/her (somebody else's) hair.)

We only don't use a pronoun when our hands or fingers do not touch the part of the body involved. In these cases, English uses a possessive, while Spanish requires an article:

  • Abrió/Cerró los ojos. (He/She opened/closed his/her (own) eyes.)
  • Movió la cabeza. (He/She moved his/her (own) head.)
  • Levantó/Agitó la mano. (He/She raised/waved his/her (own) hand.)
  • Dobló las rodillas. (He/She bent his/her (own) knees.)
  • Cruzó los brazos/las piernas (also: Se cruzó de brazos/de piernas) (He/She crossed his/her (own) legs/arms.)
  • I could do without the severed hand.... Jan 22, 2018 at 5:34
  • 2
    @aparente001 I was just trying to be humorous. It could also be the case of somebody letting you have the hand of somebody who would not offer you his/her hand voluntarily (a child, a disabled person, an unconscious person).
    – Gustavson
    Jan 22, 2018 at 11:39
  • Call me squeamish. Jan 23, 2018 at 4:39
  • @Gustavson Would it then mean that if you're talking about someone's severed hand or the hand of somebody who would not offer you his/her hand voluntarily you would use "dame su mano", would you use a possessive or an article? Thank you for the great answer by the way.
    – Louis
    Jan 25, 2018 at 12:10
  • @Louis A possessive would be used in that case: Dame/Muéstrame su mano.
    – Gustavson
    Jan 25, 2018 at 12:39

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