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Llevar vs Llevarse (pronominal verbs)

Llevar is a Spanish verb that is used in different contexts and different verbal structures. The main differences between "llevar" (non-pronominal) and "llevarse" (pronominal) are:

 

Llevar

  • To talk about transporting something or someone to a place

Here llevar means "to take", for example:

Cuando llevo a los niños al colegio siempre me encuentro con Paula.When I take the children to school I always bump into Paula.

Victoria llevará las cajas al almacén mañana.Victoria will take the boxes to the warehouse tomorrow.

¿Quieres que te lleve a la estación?Do you want me to take you to the station?

Note that if the object is "people" you need "a" in front (llevo a los niños)

  • To talk about where something leads to
Desafortunadamente, sus problemas de salud llevaron a su familia a la ruina.Unfortunately, his health problems took/lead his family to ruin.
  • To indicate that you bring/carry something with you

Recuerda que tienes que llevar tu pasaporte y tu carné de conducir.Remember that you need to carry/bring your passport and driving-license with you.

Yo siempre llevo en el bolso pañuelos de papel.I always bring/carry/have tissues in my bag.

  •  To talk about what someone is wearing

¡Esa señora lleva un sombrero horroroso!That lady is wearing a horrible hat!

No sé qué llevar a la fiesta de fin de año...I don't know what to wear for/at the New Year's Eve party...

  • To talk about what food contains/has

Esta salsa lleva mucho chile y está muy picante.This sauce has a lot of chilli and it's very spicy.

Esta tarta no lleva harina de trigo. Está hecha con polenta.This cake doesn't have wheat flour. It's made with polenta.

If you are in a restaurant and want to ask the waiter what a dish has/contains if it is the first time you see it in a menu, you can ask:

¿Qué lleva este plato?What does this dish have/contain? (What ingredients are in this dish?)

 

Llevarse

  • To talk about taking something with you-  either borrowing or stealing it

Mi hija se ha llevado las llaves del coche, así que tendré que ir en autobús al trabajo.My daughter took the car keys with her, so I'll have to go to work by bus.

El ladrón se llevó todas las joyas que había en la vitrina.The thief took all the jewells that were in the display cabinet.

  • To talk about what you decide to buy in a shop, and tell the assisstant

- ¿Se lleva usted la falda y el vestido? - Solo la falda.- Are you taking/buying the skirt and the dress? - Just the skirt.

Me llevo los pantalones negros de la talla grande.I'm taking/buying the black trousers in the large size.

  •  To talk about getting along with people

¿Tú te llevas bien con Verónica? Yo no. Siempre estamos peleándonos.Do you get on with Veronica? I don't. We are always falling out.

Me llevo muy mal con mis compañeros de piso.I don't get along with my flat mates. 

Note that we use llevarse bien to say to get on well and llevarse mal to say you don't get on well with someone.

Don't forget to use the reflexive pronoun in all these last cases using "llevarse" (me, te, se, nos, os, se)

Important note:

In the context of "llevar" as in "transporting something/someone somewhere", explained in the first bullet point, we sometimes use the pronominal form of the verb with the purpose of emphasising the involvement of the person in the action. For example:

  • Llevé las cajas al almacén.
  • Me llevé las cajas al almacén. (more emphatic)

To learn about this specific use of "se" see this advanced lesson:

Se aspectual

 

For other uses of llevar, see also:

Using llevar + gerund to express duration of an action (perífrasis verbal) and Using llevar + participio to express the completion of an action so far (perífrasis verbal)

 

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Examples and resources

No sé qué llevar a la fiesta de fin de año...I don't know what to wear for/at the New Year's Eve party...
¿Qué lleva este plato?What does this dish have/contain? (What ingredients are in this dish?)
¿Quieres que te lleve a la estación?Do you want me to take you to the station?
- ¿Se lleva usted la falda y el vestido? - Solo la falda.- Are you taking/buying the skirt and the dress? - Just the skirt.
¡Esa señora lleva un sombrero horroroso!That lady is wearing a horrible hat!
Me llevo los pantalones negros de la talla grande.I'm taking/buying the black trousers in the large size.
Victoria llevará las cajas al almacén mañana.Victoria will take the boxes to the warehouse tomorrow.
El ladrón se llevó todas las joyas que había en la vitrina.The thief took all the jewells that were in the display cabinet.
Yo siempre llevo en el bolso pañuelos de papel.I always bring/carry/have tissues in my bag.
Esta salsa lleva mucho chile y está muy picante.This sauce has a lot of chilli and it's very spicy.
Cuando llevo a los niños al colegio siempre me encuentro con Paula.When I take the children to school I always bump into Paula.
Mi hija se ha llevado las llaves del coche, así que tendré que ir en autobús al trabajo.My daughter took the car keys with her, so I'll have to go to work by bus.
Recuerda que tienes que llevar tu pasaporte y tu carné de conducir.Remember that you need to carry/bring your passport and driving-license with you.
Me llevo muy mal con mis compañeros de piso.I don't get along with my flat mates. 
Esta tarta no lleva harina de trigo. Está hecha con polenta.This cake doesn't have wheat flour. It's made with polenta.
Desafortunadamente, sus problemas de salud llevaron a su familia a la ruina.Unfortunately, his health problems took/lead his family to ruin.
¿Tú te llevas bien con Verónica? Yo no. Siempre estamos peleándonos.Do you get on with Veronica? I don't. We are always falling out.
I'll be right with you...