If more than one word in Spanish mean the same thing, how do I know which word to use in any given situation?
Okay, bailar & danzar both mean to dance. How do I know which one to use?
I often read the entire entry in a dictionary such as my Gran Diccionario Oxford in which good examples are given of various usages to indicate sometimes subtle shades of meaning.
The unabridged Cambridge is also good and available in electronic form for the desktop.
In fact, you will find a number of good sentence examples in the Chambers-Harrap and Velazquez employed here at Span¡shD!ct.com.
Here is an example in which it is clear that for some meanings of "danzar", "bailar" might not be a synonym at all.
danzar intransitive verb1. to dance (bailar); to run about (figurative) (ir de un sitio a otro)
or from Velazquez
danzar [dan-thar] 2b) to cite or to oblige one to take part in any business
- to make public the share which a person has taken in a business.
- To introduce oneself into any business. (Colloquial) (n)
Well there is such a thing in language as the "synonym" , i.e. words that mean the same thing. It's often up to the speaker to choose the one they like best for this situation. (For instance, the English word anger.)
In the case of bailar and danzar, I think you'll find that bailar is a far more commonly used word.
In my opinion this problem is more acute in English.
English has about twice as many words as Spanish (over 1,000,000).
Many of them are adjectives. Try explaining the difference between "small" and "little" and you will see the problem.
Spanish speakers learning English really need a Thesaurus to help them out.
Of course a good dictionary helps all of us..
You have to see each single case in particular, to see which is the more apropiate word.
In this case: the most correct word is "bailar". "danzar" is "to dance" but in a more technical or poetic way.