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I always have problems concerning traer and llevar. I think I understand the general meaning:

  • Llevar means "to take", such as when an object is being taken (generally by you) to a place other than where you are.
  • Traer means "to bring", such as when an object is being transported to the place where you are.

However, I'm confused how those rules apply when speaking with other persons. Here is an example:

  • I'm talking to my friend Pablo.
  • Pablo is in place A, I'm in place B.
  • I want Pablo to transport an apple from A to B.

From Pablos point of view, I'd use "puedes llevar la manzana?", because he takes the apple from A to B. From my point of view, I'd use "puedes traer la manzana?", because the apple is being transported to the place where I am.

So, both options could be justified by applying the rules, but I assume only one is correct. Which one, and why is that? I guess the problem boils down to whether the speakers location or the listeners location is the influencing one.

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  • Related to: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/1793/… Dec 21 '12 at 14:53
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    I think you have the gist of it. It is a matter of taking into consideration the frame of reference. The endpoint is a) You, if the location is where you are; thus you use traer or b) the person you are asking to do something, if the location is somewhere else different to yours and his/hers; in that case you use llevar.
    – palopezv
    Dec 21 '12 at 15:52
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Speaking for my particular linguistic variety (which is Spanish from Spain), the correct one would be "¿Puedes traer la manzana?", because "traer" always implies carrying something to the place where the speaker is, while "llevar" always implies carrying something to a different place than where the speaker is. You are the speaker, so it's your frame of reference which applies. This would be a normal conversation:

—¿Puedes traer la manzana?
—De acuerdo, llevaré la manzana.

Thus, Spanish "traer" is somewhat different from English "to bring"; the latter can be used from both frames of reference: the speaker's and the bringer's.

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  • Thanks for your answer, it clarified some aspects for me. Maybe there really is a linguistic variety for this case? I asked a colleague from Peru about this example, and she told me that in her opinion, both "Puedes traer la manzana?" and "Puedes llevar la manzana?" could be applied, but she would prefer "Puedes llevar la manzana?". Dec 21 '12 at 18:56
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    @donodarazao That is because in some countries/regions "llevar" is used also as "to carry". Example "¿Llevas tu pasaporte?" ... "Do you have your passport?" Dec 21 '12 at 20:27
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It's related with ir/venir (to go/to come). The person who goes, lleva, and the one who comes, trae.

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Check the article Llevar vs traer:

Traer is used when you or someone else is bringing an object to the place where you are at the time you are speaking.

Llevar is used when you or someone else is taking an object to a place other than where you currently are.

For example:

  • Me va a traer el libro - He's going to bring the book to me

  • Tengo que llevar esos libros a la biblioteca - I have to take these books to the library

"llevar" is away from the speaker's location while "traer" is toward the speaker's location.

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