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

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

Examples:

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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This is (I believe) the best answer (don't complicate it further): From gotspanish.com:

The difference between llevar and traer is this: Traer is used when you or someone else is bringing something or someone to wherever you are at the time you’re speaking. Llevar is used when you or someone else is taking something or someone to a place other than where you currently are.

The following examples are from this site: worldspanishteacher.com

So, I can say, “Voy a llevar unos platos a la fiesta.” – I’m going to take some plates to the party. I cannot say it the way we say it in English a lot of the time – “Voy a traer unos platos a la fiesta” – That’s wrong. It has to be, “Voy a llevar unos platos a la fiesta” because you’re taking about taking something to another location that’s not where you are.

Now, I can say, “Voy a la tienda a traer comida” – I’m gonna go to the store to bring back some food – because I’m talking about bringing something back to my location, where I’m at now. I can call my friend on the phone and say, “Trae unos platos cuando vengas” – Bring some plates when you come – because I’m talking about him coming to my location, the speaker’s location. My friend on the phone is not going to respond and say, “Ok I’ll bring some plates.” He’s going to say, “Ok I’ll take some plates” – because he’s taking the plates to another location that’s not where he is. So he would say, “Está bien, voy a llevar unos platos”.

And it’s the same if I call my friend and ask him if he’s going to bring some plates to the party. I’m not talking about my house. I’m talking about a third location. Not my house, not his house, another place. So I can say, “Vas a llevar unos platos a la fiesta” – because he’s taking the plates to another location that’s not where he is and that’s not where I’m at; so he’s going to take them.

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