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Bring This With You When You Go

Explaining the difference between "bring" and "take," and when to use one and when the other

Spanish Pinpointed

Teachers of English frequently find themselves explaining the difference between “bring” and “take,” and when to use one and when the other.

The Spanish verbs “traer” (bring), and “llevar” (take), are applied almost in the same way.  That is, traer is mostly used when the action is toward the place where the speaker is, and llevar when the action is away from the current location.

Examples of traer and llevar

Please bring me my coat. Por favor, tráeme mi gabardina.

Take this book to the library. Lleva este libro a la biblioteca.

These are clear-cut examples, where the coat is brought to the place from another place, and the book is taken from the current place to another.

As in English, there are cases where different verbs can be used for the same action, depending on the reference point chosen by the speaker. Someone at home could say: llevaré mi computadora al trabajo mañana. I will take my computer to work tomorrow. Or, traeré mi computadora al trabajo mañana. I will will bring my computer to work tomorrow. In both cases, the computer goes from home to the office, although the speaker’s reference varies.

Some people use the word ‘bring’ when they plan to take something or someone with them whether the action is toward or away from the location of the speaker. This is feasible in Spanish, but not usual. I will bring my umbrella with me when I go to school. Traeré mi paraguas cuando voy a la escuela,” although it would be more usual in Spanish to say, llevaré mi paraguas cuando voy a la escuela.

The verb traer is irregular in Spanish, with the simple past tense yo traje, tú trajiste, él/ella trajo, nosotros trajimos, ustedes trajeron.

Llevar is regular following rules for “ar” verbs.

Correct usage of the verb ‘to take’ in Spanish

The Spanish verb for take—as in taking something from someone, taking a break, or taking note, is tomar, not llevar. El profesor tomó el libro del librero. The teacher took the book from the shelf. Toma un descanso de cinco minutos. Take a five-minute break.

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