Llevar vs Traer: When to Use Which

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Llevar vs Traer
Llevar vs Traer

They say English grammar is hard. But then why does Spanish have two words for some verbs where in English we only use one? The example we are looking at today is llevar vs traer. For many non-native speakers, it can be a hard to one to wrap one’s head around. Can’t we just say “bring”? No, we cannot. Read on to see what the differences are and how to use llevar and traer correctly.

 

What is the meaning of llevar?

Llevar means to take/bring something or someone from a place they are currently to a place that is far from where they are now. We can use the adverb allí or allá (there or over there).

When should you use llevar?

Look at this image below. In English you would say “she brings the books to the library”. In Spanish, we need to use llevar because she is not at the library at the moment, but she is on her way there to bring them there.

Llevar
La niña lleva los libros a la biblioteca.
What is the meaning of traer?

Traer means to take/bring something or someone to the place the speaker is now. We could use the adverb aquí (here).

When should you use traer?

In this image, the girl is bringing back books from the library. Because the focus is on where she is now and the books are being brought to her current location, we use traer.

Traer
La niña trae los libros de la biblioteca (a casa).

 

More examples

Let’s have a look at this sentence. How would you translate it to Spanish?

“I’m going to bring some plates to the party.”

✘ Voy a traer unos platos a la fiesta.
✔︎ Voy a llevar unos platos a la fiesta.

Why is the first example wrong? In this case, you are talking about a place – la fiesta – where you, or the speaker is not currently. You are taking something to another location that is not where you are at the moment. This is why you need to use llevar.

Now, imagine you are at the party and you want your friend to bring some beers:

Lleva unas cervezas cuando vengas.
✔︎ Trae unas cervezas cuando vengas.

In this case, you are talking about bringing something to the location you or the speaker is at right now. We are telling them to “bring some beers when you come here“.

 

As you can see, the idea and difference between llevar and traer is quite simple. In fact, the result is more specific and accurate than using just one identical word. Hopefully, you’ve had your “ah-ha” moment by reading this blog! If you would like to see any other grammar topics that confuse you, let us know in the comments below. If you are interested in studying with us, check out our Spanish classes.

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