Spanish Expression of the Day: '¡Dale caña!'

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Spanish Expression of the Day: '¡Dale caña!'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

This expression can be useful if you want someone to get a scolding but also if you need to move faster.


Why do I need to know this Spanish expression?

Well, it can be used in different circumstances and, as it’s usually blurted out in Spanish, you’re sure to get a quick response.

“¡Dale caña!” is used to encourage someone to give another person a scolding, a good hiding or a run for his or her money.

It doesn’t necessarily have to mean a physical beating, but rather the concept of ‘giving them hell’, of having a go at them, to crack the whip.

So if you’re encouraging your friend to beat their opponent at tennis you’d say to them “dale caña” as a way of encouraging them.

The other very common usage of “¡Dale caña!” is to get someone to go or drive faster, to get a move on, to put their foot on it, to give more intensity to something.

Spaniards also use “¡Metéle caña!” rather than “dale” (from dar, to give) to the same effect.

The meme reads "Put your foot on it boy or we won't get to mass in time".

Isn't "caña" beer in Spanish? How did they come up with such a weird expression?

In its most literal sense, “dar caña” means ‘to give cane’, which explains the origins of the words.

Caña in Spanish can mean many things - a small glass of beer, a fishing rod (caña de pescar), a cannoli, the leg of the boot- but in this case the expression “dar caña” refers to a cane or reed.

Some sources say that “dar caña” comes from the fact that such canes or reeds were used by farmers to spank cattle into moving or to get them to do what they were told.

Others say that “dale caña” when referring to increasing speed comes from the tiller – a lever used to help steer the rudder on some boats.

Who can I use this expression with?

It’s a colloquial expression so use it with people you know.

Afterall, it’s a command which uses the imperative of either “dar” (give) or “meter” (put/stick) so use it in situations which warrant action.


Can you give me some examples?

¡Dale caña! ¡Ha suspendido cinco asignaturas!

¡Give her a good scolding! She’s failed five subjects!


¡Venga! Eres mejor jugador que él. ¡Dale caña!

Come on! You’re a better player than him! Give him hell!


¡Dale caña que no llegamos a tiempo al embarque!

Step on it or we won’t get there in time for boarding!


¡Dale caña a los huevos que tenemos que tener la tortilla lista en media hora!

Hurry up with those eggs! We need to have the tortilla ready in half an hour.



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