Trazer and Levar: Do I Bring or Do I Take – Understand Differences in Use

Trazer and Levar in Portuguese - blog post by Street Smart Brazil. Learn the differences in use between Portuguese and English.

Ever found yourself flipping through a dictionary to understand the difference between trazer (to bring) and levar (to take)? While dictionaries offer translations, they often miss the subtleties of usage, especially in the context of Portuguese and English. These verbs can be particularly challenging for English speakers learning Portuguese, as well as for Brazilians studying English.

In Brazilian Portuguese, the usage hinges on the speaker’s location and intent:

Trazer (to bring) is used for things coming to the speaker’s current location. In other words, I bring things to where I am at the moment when I’m talking about bringing them.

Levar (to take) refers to things going to a different location, where the speaker plans to be. That is, I take things to where I am going.

Confusing? The following examples will make it all clear.

Oh! And I have a video too for you :) First published in 2011, this lesson features a video recorded with technology from a simpler time. So, here’s a gem for you: It’s an oldie but goldie with great content and a touch of retro charm. Please note, the post has been updated in 2023 with additional examples, which means the video won’t exactly match the current content.

How we use trazer and levar in Portuguese

Let’s explore this with some scenarios:

Situation 1: Party Planning

Marta is organizing a party at her place. She’s at home and calls Rodrigo, who’s at work, to invite him to the party:

Rodrigo: Marta, o que eu levo para a festa? Estou pensando em levar umas cervejas e pãozinho de queijo. O que você acha?”
(Marta, what should I take to the party? I’m thinking about taking some beers and cheese bread. What do you think?)

Marta: Pode trazer qualquer coisa. Pãozinho é uma boa ideia, com certeza.”
(You can bring anything. Cheese bread is a great idea, for sure.)

Rodrigo uses levar as he’s going to Marta’s place. Marta uses trazer as she’s already at the destination where things will be taken to.

Do you see the difference? In English, Rodrigo would have asked what he could bring to Marta’s party.

Have you heard your Brazilian friends talking about what they will take to the party? Now you know why they use “take” instead of “bring”.

Situation 2: Colleagues Conversing

If both Rodrigo and Marta are at work, the conversation changes:

Rodrigo: “Marta, o que levo para a festa? (“Marta, what should I take to the party?)

Marta: Pode levar qualquer coisa. Pãozinho é uma boa ideia, com certeza. (You can take anything. Cheese bread is a great idea, for sure.)

Both use levar as they are discussing taking items to a future location.

Situation 3: Tourist’s Dilemma

John, living in San Francisco, is packing for his first Brazil trip:

“Devo levar um casaco? Com certeza vou levar minha câmera.”
(“Should I take a coat? I’ll definitely take my camera.”)

He’s in the US, preparing to take items to Brazil. So, he uses levar.

Situation 4: Reflecting in Brazil

Once in Brazil, John realizes:

“Foi uma boa ideia trazer roupas leves.”
(“It was a good idea to bring light clothes.”)

Here, trazer reflects items brought to his current location.

Situation 5: Souvenir Shopping

While still in Brazil, John plans gifts for his US friends:

“Vou levar café brasileiro para meus amigos.”
(“I’ll take Brazilian coffee to my friends.”)

He uses levar as he will take coffee from Brazil to the US.

Situation 6: In a Brazilian Cafe

Ana is at a cafe in Rio and texts her boyfriend Pedro, who’s on his way:

“Você pode trazer meu carregador que esqueci na sua casa?”
(“Can you bring my charger that I left at your house?”)

Ana uses trazer as she’s at the cafe, the charger’s destination.

Pedro, who had plans to meet her at the cafe, answers:

“Tá bom! Levo, sim.” (OK, I will take it.)

He uses levar because he will take the phone to a different location.

Situation 7: Planning a Beach Day

Carlos, planning a beach day with friends, asks:

“O que devo levar para a praia?”
(“What should I take to the beach?”)

Levar is used as he’s preparing to take items to another location.

Understanding the contextual use of trazer and levar can greatly enhance your fluency in Portuguese. It’s these nuances that make learning a language both challenging and rewarding.

Até a próxima!

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