Spanish Verbs Llevar vs. Traer

Let’s talk about when to use the Spanish words llevar vs. traer.

Over the weekend, I was at an American friend’s house here in Medellin, Colombia and I heard him make a mistake on the phone when speaking to his “empleada” (maid).

I want to share this mistake with you because it is a very common mistake that English speakers make with Spanish. And I want to be sure that you never make this same mistake when speaking Spanish.

As I mentioned, we were already at my friend’s house. And there was some type of document that the “empleada” wanted to bring to Joe’s house so that he could show his “contadora” (accountant) as an example of the type of document that Joe’s “empleada” needed prepared for herself by Joe’s contadora.” By the way, in some Spanish-speaking countries, the word for “accountant” is “contable.”

And I heard Joe (not his real name) say over the phone “Lléva el documento a mi casa, por favor.”

If you want to say “bring the document to my house, please” and you happen to already be at home, that is not how to say it.

The Spanish verb “llevar” is used when talking about transporting something or someone from one destination to another destination OTHER THAN WHERE YOU ARE.

So if you are not at home and you are somewhere else, possibly at work or at the “supermercado” (supermarket), and you are speaking to someone on your cell phone and you want the document to be at your home when you arrive then you can, in fact, say “lleva el documento a mi casa.”

“Lleva el documento a mi casa” does not mean “bring” the document to my house. “Lleva el documento a mi casa” actually means, “take” the document to my house. Assuming that you are somewhere other than your home, you can also instruct someone to take the document to your home by saying:

Me lleva el documento a mi casa, por favor.
Take the document to my house, please.

On the other hand, if you are already at home and you want someone to “bring” the document to you at your home, then you would use the verb “traer” (to bring).

Trae el document a mi casa. (informal)
Me traes el documento a mi casa. (informal)

Tráigame el documento a mi casa. (formal)
Bring the document to my house.