What’s the difference between traer and llevar?

traer vs. llevar

The verbs traer and llevar are easily confused by Spanish learners. It can be helpful to think of them as equivalent to the English verbs bring and take. Master the difference between traer and llevar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

—Diana, ¿qué te parece si llevamos un bizcocho a casa de los vecinos como bienvenida?

—¡Qué buena idea, José! Ellos nos trajeron ayer una cesta con magdalenas.

How to use traer and llevar correctly

Both verbs express the movement of something or someone from A to B. When choosing the correct verb two things are important: the location of the speaker and the location of the thing being moved.

traer: from there to here

The verb traer can be translated with the English bring. It works together with the adverb aquí (here): traer algo aquí (to bring something here). In sentences with traer, the person or thing in question moves towards the speaker.

Examples:
Camarero: Les traigo la carta.Waiter: I’ll bring you the menu.
Cliente: Gracias. ¿Nos puede traer una botella de agua, por favor?Guest: Thank you. Could you bring us a bottle of water, please?

llevar: from here to there

The verb llevar can be translated with the English take. It works together with the adverb allí (there): llevar algo allí (to take something (over) there). In sentences with llevar, the person or thing in question moves away from the speaker.

Examples:
Camarero: ¿Quiere llevar el resto a casa?Waitress: Do you want to take the rest home?
Cliente: No, gracias. ¡Pero sí me llevaré una botella de este vino tan rico!Guest: No, thank you. But I will take a bottle of this delicious wine!

Info

The verbs llevar and traer work in parallel to the verbs ir and venir (go and come). These verbs also describe the movement of a person or thing in relation to the speaker’s location.

External Speaker

When the speaker is not physically present in the scene there are two options.

Option 1: the speaker places themselves mentally at point A (the point of origin) or point B (the destination)

  • If the speaker mentally places themselves at point A, we use the verb llevar:
    Example:
    Cuando vuelva de vacaciones, llevaré toda mi ropa sucia a una lavandería.When I come back from holiday I’m going to take all of my dirty clothes to the laundrette.
    point A: home → point B: the laundrette
  • If the speaker mentally places themselves at point B, we use the verb traer:
    Example:
    Mauricio, mi compañero de oficina, trae siempre un bizcocho para desayunar.Mauricio, my colleague in the office, always brings a cake for breakfast.
    point A: the bakery/Mauricio’s kitchen → point B: the office

Option 2: the speaker stays outside of the scene

  • If the speaker does not participate actively, that is, if they are not physically or mentally present at either the point of origin or the destination, we use the verb llevar.
    Examples:
    Los aviones de carga llevan cartas y paquetes a cualquier parte del mundo.Cargo places take letters and parcels to anywhere in the world.
    Cuando llegues a casa, lleva al gato al veterinario.When you get home, take the cat to the vet.

How to conjugate traer and llevar

Below are the present, past and future conjugations of the verbs traer and llevar. Use Lingolia’a verb conjugator to see the conjugation for all tenses in both the indicative and subjunctive moods.

TRAER present imperfect preterite future
yo traigo traía traje traeré
traes traías trajiste traerás
él, ella, usted trae traía trajo traerá
nosotros/-as traemos traíamos trajimos traeremos
vosotros/-as traéis traíais trajisteis traréis
ellos/-as, ustedes traen traían trajeron traerán
LLEVAR present imperfect preterite future
yo llevo llevaba llevé llevaré
llevas llevabas llevaste llevarás
él, ella, usted lleva llevaba llevó llevará
nosotros/-as llevamos llevábamos llevamos llevaremos
vosotros/-as lleváis llevabais llevasteis llevareis
ellos/-as, ustedes llevan llevaban llevaron llevarán