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Traer vs Llevar vs Tomar

What’s the difference between Traer and Llevar? Do both verbs mean “bring”? And what does it have to do with how you say “take” in Spanish? Let’s explore these essential Spanish verbs. We’ll get lots of spoken practice in all of the common forms of Traer.

Full Podcast Episode


¿Me trajiste algo?

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to work on the verb Traer, which roughly means “to bring”. For example:

Tomorrow I’m going to bring my cat to school.

Mañana voy a traer a mi gato a la escuela.

Now hang on a second, didn’t we already learn to use Llevar this way? Couldn’t we translate this sentence as mañana voy a llevar a mi gato a la escuela?

Well, there is a subtle difference. Llevar tends to emphasize the act of taking something from one point to another, especially to a distant point, or the ongoing act of having it with you. But our new verb, Traer, put some more emphasis on arriving with the thing, especially if the place you’re describing is here, the place where the speaker is. For that reason, Llevar is more likely to be used with distant adverbs like ahí and allí, whereas you’re more likely to use Traer when you’re talking about arriving aquí. Here’s another example:

They were going to bring the box here.

Iban a traer la caja aquí.

Once again, the emphasis is on the destination of where the thing ends up, specifically somewhere close to the speaker, which is why we’re using this new verb, Traer. It’s kind of like the difference between “go” and “come”; “go” is a general-purpose verb for going from any place to any other place, but “come” is used specifically for ending up where the speaker is. In English, we don’t really have that distinction for the verbs “take” and “bring”, but it is the tendency in Spanish.

Now, in real life, there’s often a lot of crossover between Llevar and Traer. So it’s generally impossible to predict Llevar and Traer 100% of the time. Instead, in our quizzing, to make this easy for you, we’ll generally translate Llevar as “take” and Traer as “bring”.

Of course, you should also keep in mind the difference between Llevar and Tomar, which we learned back in Episode 156. Sometimes “take” is Tomar, and sometimes it’s Llevar. Here’s an example that uses all three.

Take this, take it with you, and bring it to the concert.

Toma esto, llévalo contigo y tráelo al concierto.

Now let’s start conjugating Traer. Most of the present-tense forms are regular: trae, traes, traen, and traemos. But the yo version has an extra G in it: traigo. This makes it similar to verbs like Decir, where we had digo, and Oír, where we had oigo.

Let’s go ahead and get some practice with the present tense. But I’m also going to throw in a couple of uses of Llevar to help you practice choosing between them. You’ll know to choose Traer if the English says “bring” and Llevar if the English says “take”. Try to predict the Spanish.

They bring their cats with them.

Traen a sus gatos con ellos.

He takes those things to his work.

Lleva esas cosas a su trabajo.

I always bring the same thing for lunch.

Siempre traigo lo mismo para el almuerzo.

If I bring my games, we can play.

Si traigo mis juegos, podemos jugar.

He always brings that super early.

Siempre trae eso tempranísimo.

We always bring gifts when we come.

Siempre traemos regalos cuando venimos.

What do you bring for the party?

¿Qué traes para la fiesta?

I’m taking this to her house.

Llevo esto a su casa.

Now based on the present-tense forms, you should be able to predict what the imperatives and the subjunctives are. The singular informal imperative is trae, and of course we also have a bunch of contractions such as tráelo for “bring it” and tráeme for “bring to me”. And then the subjunctives are all based on traiga, so we have traiga, traigas, traigan, and traigamos. These also give us some other imperatives, such as traiga for usted and traigan if you’re talking to a group of people. Let’s practice these, and once again we’ll throw in a couple of uses of Llevar to help you practice choosing between them.

Bring it to my house!

¡Tráelo a mi casa!

I want you to bring food.

Quiero que traigas comida.

Don’t take this to that building.

No lleves esto a ese edificio.

Bring me the doggy.

Tráeme al perrito.

Bring money to pay for breakfast.

Trae dinero para pagar el desayuno.

He wants me to bring a game.

Quiere que yo traiga un juego.

(Plural) Bring what we need for the party.

Traigan lo que necesitamos para la fiesta.

(Formal) Bring that table.

Traiga esa mesa.

I don’t want her to bring anything.

No quiero que traiga nada.

Lately, she wants them to bring a lot of things.

Últimamente, ella quiere que ellos traigan muchas cosas.

Take this with you and don’t bring it again.

Lleva esto contigo y no lo traigas otra vez.

In that last example, notice how we use Llevar to emphasize taking something away from here and Traer to emphasize that it was brought to here. This is very typical for these verbs.

All right, now let’s talk about the most irregular thing about conjugating Traer. The preterite forms are very irregular, in the same way that Decir is irregular, with a strange letter J in the preterite. So remember that for Decir we had dije, dijo, dijiste, dijimos, and dijeron. For Traer, we have traje, trajo, trajiste, trajimos, and trajeron. Let’s practice these, and once again we’ll throw in a couple of uses of Llevar’s preterite to help you practice choosing between them.

I brought my phone.

Traje mi teléfono.

They brought enough food.

Trajeron suficiente comida.

Did you bring what I told you?

¿Trajiste lo que te dije?

I took those little thingies to his house.

Llevé esas cositas a su casa.

Obviously, he brought the guitar.

Obviamente, trajo la guitarra.

We brought what you took to our house.

Trajimos lo que llevaste a nuestra casa.

To wrap up, some other common forms include the participle, traído, the future forms traeré and traerá, as well as the infinitive contractions traerlo, traerme, and traerte. Let’s practice these.

You have to bring me money.

Tienes que traerme dinero.

You can bring it if you want.

Puedes traerlo si quieres.

She’ll bring absolutely all the food.

Ella traerá absolutamente toda la comida.

They hadn’t brought anything for dinner.

No habían traído nada para la cena.

Can you bring that?

¿Puedes traer eso?

I’ll bring a spoon in order to eat.

Traeré una cuchara para comer.

He hasn’t taken those objects yet.

Aún no ha llevado esos objetos.

She has to bring you the game.

Tiene que traerte el juego.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/236. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

I want to bring you a gift next week.

Quiero traerte un regalo la próxima semana.

We always bring everything we need.

Siempre traemos todo lo que necesitamos.

He brought the dish super late.

Trajo el plato tardísimo.

Bring it, even though he doesn’t want you to bring it.

Tráelo, aunque él no quiere que lo traigas.

You can’t bring me money.

No puedes traerme dinero.

She is going to bring the computer afterwards.

Va a traer la computadora después.

Hopefully they'll bring glasses.

Ojalá traigan vasos.

If he brings the key, we’ll go in.

Si trae la llave, entraremos.

He will definitely bring his watch.

Definitivamente traerá su reloj.

The lock is completely fine, I don’t need him to bring a new one.

La cerradura está completamente bien, no necesito que traiga una nueva.

(Formal) Bring those chairs!

¡Traiga esas sillas!

He wants me to bring something, because I haven’t brought anything.

Quiere que traiga algo, porque no he traído nada.

(Plural) Bring that immediately.

Traigan eso enseguida.

I always bring a fork and a knife to eat outside.

Siempre traigo un tenedor y un cuchillo para comer afuera.

You have to bring it now, hurry up.

Tienes que traerlo ahora, date prisa.

You didn’t bring it? How nice that I brought it.

¿No lo trajiste? Qué bueno que yo lo traje.

Bring me the coffee, please.

Tráeme el café, por favor.

Bring two doggies so we can play.

Trae dos perritos para que podamos jugar.

What are you bringing? // They are bringing something else.

¿Qué traes? // Ellos traen algo más.

I’ll bring the food, because they didn’t bring it.

Traeré la comida porque ellos no la trajeron.

Don’t bring that, we already brought it.

No traigas eso, nosotros ya lo trajimos.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/236.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn the verbs for “buy”, “sell”, and “open”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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