Llevar (to take) and traer (to bring) are very similar verbs. Both refer to the action of moving objects from one location to another. Llevar is used when an object is being taken to a place other than where the person who is talking is. On the other hand, traer is used when an object is being transported towards the speaker. It sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it is, but deciding when to use llevar or traer in context is sometimes tricky. That's because in many cases there is only a subtle difference of meaning between these two verbs, and because both are used in many idiomatic expressions, and, finally, because in some cases they can be used as synonyms.
So let's start with the basic difference between llevar (to take) and traer (to bring). When Luciana and Julia save Valente from being beaten to death by some thugs, Luciana says:
Ayúdame, vamos a llevarlo a mi casa.
Help me. We are going to take him to my house.
Caption 3, El Ausente - Acto 2Play Caption
But when Guillermina finds that her Grandpa has fallen into a pit, she says:
Ya sé, abuelo.
I know, Grandfather.
Voy a traer la red de pescar para intentar subirte.
I'm going to bring the fishing net to try to get you up.
Captions 34-35, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terrorPlay Caption
When the direction of the movement is being stated in the phrase, it's possible to use traer or llevar to express the same idea, with just a subtle difference in meaning. In the next caption, we included "traer/to bring" between parentheses so you can compare:
They work hard
para llevar el producto del campo a la mesa.
to take the produce from the field to the table.
Captions 5-6, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa Part 1Play Caption
Note that the only difference between the two options is the perspective from which the person is talking. With llevar, the person's perspective is from the field; with traer, the person's perspective is from the table.
You should also remember that llevar and traer are both transitive verbs, so they will always be accompanied by a direct object, or direct pronoun. If we add to that the inclusion of indirect objects or indirect pronouns, the many possible ways to combine all these elements can be a real challenge. We suggest you study the rules on how to correctly place and combine all these pronouns. You may also like to check out your conjugation tables, especially for traer, since it's an irregular verb. Study these examples too:
Julio trae el dinero para Raquel. | Julio lo trae para Raquel. | Él lo trae para Raquel. | Él se lo trae.
Julio brings the money to Raquel. | Julio brings it to Raquel. | He brings it to Raquel. | He brings it to her.
No olvides llevar el carro a mamá. | No olvides llevarlo a mamá. | No olvides llevárselo. | ¡Llévaselo!
Don't forget to take the car to mom | Don't forget to take it to mom. | Don't forget to take it to her. | Take it to her!
Now, for the good part: both llevar and traer are used figuratively in so many expressions that we are going to need a second part of this lesson to explore them. Let's just see a couple now.
Llevar and traer are used to express that something or someone has, contains, or wears something:
En español, todas las palabras tienen una sílaba fuerte.
In Spanish, all the words have a strong syllable.
Y muchas de ellas llevan tilde.
And many of them have a written accent.
Captions 50-51, Fundamentos del Español - 1 - El AlfabetoPlay Caption
Me gusta llevar faldas normalmente, sobre todo en invierno.
I like to wear skirts usually, especially in winter.
Captions 6-7, El Aula Azul - Actividades DiariasPlay Caption
It's also correct to say Me gusta traer faldas ("I like to wear skirts"). Check out this one:
Por eso traen pantalones.
That's why they wear pants.
Captions 47-48, El Ausente - Acto 2Play Caption
You will find llevar and traer meaning "to have" or "to contain" when talking about food or recipes:
Le pusimos una pancetita y lleva pollo.
We put in some bacon and it has chicken.
Caption 92, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa Part 9Play Caption
Le quitamos la posible arenita que pueda traer.
We remove the possible bit of sand that it might have.
Caption 68, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoliPlay Caption
We'll stop here to leave some for Part 2. Thanks for reading!