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After years of living in a Spanish-speaking country, and speaking mostly only Spanish all day, I still struggle with 'llevar' and 'traer'. The rules are clear and all, but it is just very difficult to apply this properly. Is there anybody who has a special trick that helped him/her to do this the right way?

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Can you add a little context or example? I can't understand the problem. – Laura Feb 10 '12 at 7:30
+1 for Laura's comment. I sort of imagine the confusion you might have, but it'd be much better if you provided a couple of examples of actual uses where you don't know which word to use. – Janoma Feb 10 '12 at 12:59
I am afraid the distinction between "llevar" and "traer" is as tricky as that between "ir" and "venir" or "come" and "go" in English. Use is idiomatic and I don't think that strict rules can be enunciated. – CesarGon Feb 10 '12 at 14:42

llevar = to take (to go to someplace and carry something with you.)

traer = to bring (to come to someplace and carry something with you.)


Llevale estas manzanas a tu abuela.

Trae unas cervezas para la fiesta de la noche.

As a side note, an interesting thing is that in Japanese the corresponding verbs are made up of two verbs:

持っていく = to take (to carry + to go)

持ってくる = to bring (to carry + to come)

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I would say llevar is to ir as traer is to venir. So, llevar-ir vs traer-venir. Just relate the 'LL' sound with the fact of going away ...

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I always remember that at a restaurant I'm asked para aquí o para llevar? And since I never bring my food to a restaurant, llevar clearly means to take (away).

Although this only helps if you properly remember what a restaurant cashier asks. :)

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You can use this:

El burrito del teniente lleva carga y no la siente

where lleva means to carry something. By remembering this you can infer the meaning of traer (to bring).

Just an idea :)

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I always think of the difference in the two as being .... is it with you? or is it on you?

Traigo las llaves

would translate to I bring the keys while

Llevo las llaves

would translate to

I bring the keys with me,

I have the keys on me,

I'm carrying the keys,

I'm wearing the keys

That last translation says it all. If you bring something as in traer , you are not implying that you actually have the object on you. It's no different than saying

Llevo dos años estudiando..

It translates as Me, carrying/wearing two years, like dead weight, worth of studying.

Traigo dos años estudiando makes no sense whatsoever.

While I will agree with the others in their describing llevar as to take out, I will also point out that after you take the food out you will be bringing it to another place in the end.

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Traer means carrying something to the speaker's location. Llevar means carrying something from the speaker's location to somewhere else.

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