Llevarse vs llevar: What's Their Difference in Meaning? (2023)

Llevarse vs llevar: What's Their Difference in Meaning? (1)

February 10, 2021 by Michelle Margaret Fajkus Spanish Grammar 0 comments

Do you know the difference between llevarse vs llevar?

Both of these Spanish verbs generally refer to the action of carrying or taking someone or something somewhere. However, by digging a little deeper, we’ll see that Spanish speakers use them in a variety of ways.

Due to the overlap between the two, it’s natural for Spanish learners to confuse llevarse vs llevar.

Read this blog post to learn about the similarities, differences, and correct uses of these two verbs. Let’s take it away!

How To Use Llevar

Llevar is a regular Spanish verb that translates to “to carry” or “to take” in English. It usually refers to moving or transporting a thing or a person from place to place.

Initially, it referred to carrying a heavy burden. However, it has become a super versatile verb to discuss what a person carries, wears, has, does, tolerates, or moves. In all, the meanings of llevar have more than a dozen English equivalents. As you might guess, it’s challenging to tell what llevar means out of context.

This verb has other uses, as well. Let’s check them out.

Llevarse vs llevar: What's Their Difference in Meaning? (2)

1. Talk about Taking Someone/Something Somewhere

Voy a llevar a los niños a la biblioteca.
I’m going to take the children to the library.

Hay que llevar la moto al mecánico.
We need to take the motorcycle to the mechanic.

Voy a llevar mi gatita al veterinario.
I’m going to take my kitten to the vet.

Nina llevará postre para todos.
Nina will bring dessert for everyone.

2. Talk about the Passage of Time

When we use the verb llevar to talk about time, it’s a substitute for the verb tener. In other words, these two verbs are interchangeable when speaking about how long you have been doing something.

Llevo un año estudiando español.
I’ve been studying Spanish for a year.

Marcos lleva tres días sin llamarnos.
Marcos hasn’t called us in three days.

Los peces llevaban cinco días sin comer.
The fish had not eaten for five days.

We use the verb llevar with another verb in the present progressive to indicate that we have been doing an action for a certain length of time—and that it is ongoing. The formula is:

Llevar + verb in present progressive + complement

Llevo viviendo en Guatemala 11 años.
I’ve been living in Guatemala for 11 years.

Llevamos siendo amigos toda la vida.
We have been friends all our lives.

Hugo lleva practicando toda la mañana.
Hugh has been practicing all morning.

3. Talk about Clothes being Worn

While the verb vestir means “to dress,” it’s more common to use llevar to talk about what we are wearing or how we’re dressed. A common use of llevar is as the equivalent of “to wear” clothing, shoes, or accessories.

Llevo una camisa verde.
I’m wearing a green shirt.

Ella llevará mi vestido azul para la boda.
She will wear my blue dress to the wedding.

Voy a llevar mis sandalias.
I’m going to wear my sandals.

4. Talk about Food

In the realm of kitchen and making recipes, you’ll use llevar to talk about ingredients.

¿Estos panqueques llevan huevo?
Do these pancakes have eggs?

Esta pizza no lleva salsa de tomate.
This pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce.

¿Qué lleva la sopa del día?
What’s in the soup of the day?

How To Use Llevarse

Llevarse is the Spanish verb for “to take away.” This verb is a pronominal verb, in that it makes use of a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos). In some instances, the verb itself is reflexive (meaning that the action is performed back onto itself), while other times its use of a reflexive pronoun holds no real syntactic function.

It’s important to note that for all pronominal verbs, the reflexive pronoun agrees in gender and number with the subject. In the case of llevarse, this means:

  • (yo) me llevo
  • (tú) te llevas
  • (usted/él/ella) se lleva
  • (ustedes/ellas/ellos) se llevan
  • (nosotros) nos llevamos

See also: How to Use Reflexive Verbs in Conversation as well as our post on Pronominal Verbs in Spanish

The verb llevarse may refer to taking something, in the sense of borrowing, buying, or stealing it, as well as getting along with others or being in fashion.

Read on to discover the multitude of ways to use llevarse.

1. Take it with You

Take it with you.

Quisiera llevarme la caja.
I’d like to take the box with me.

Me llevé tu libro de filosofía.
I took your philosophy book.

El ladrón se llevó mi tarjeta de crédito.
The thief took my credit card.

Me gusta mucho esta falda, me la llevo.
I really like this skirt, I’ll take it.

Mi hija se llevó la bicicleta esta mañana.
My daughter took the bike this morning.

2. Talk about Relationships

The phrase se lleva bien means that people get along well and se lleva mal means that they don’t.

Mi suegro y yo nos llevamos bien.
My father-in-law and I get along.

El profesor es grosero; él se lleva mal con todos sus alumnos.
The teacher is rude; he is on bad terms with all his students.

¿Cómo te llevas con tu madre?
How is your relationship with your mother?

Desde ese entonces, mis hermanos se llevan mal.
Since then, my brothers don’t get along.

3. Talk about What’s In Fashion

Los tatuajes se llevan mucho ahora.
Tattoos are so popular now.

Este verano se llevan los colores brillantes.
Bright colors are fashionable this summer.

Descubre la moda que se lleva esta temporada.
Discover the style that’s in fashion this season.

4. Talk about Surprise

Eduardo se llevó una gran sorpresa cuando vió a su prima llegar.
Eduardo was surprised when he saw his cousin arrive.

Nos llevamos un susto grande cuando la niña se cayó del columpio.
We were scared when the girl fell from the swing.

Tu abuela se llevará una gran sorpresa al verte.
Your grandmother will be surprised to see you.

5. Talk about Winning an Award

Se llevó el premio Pulitzer.
He won the Pulitzer Prize.

Nos llevamos el premio mayor de la lotería.
We won the first prize in the lottery.

Comparing Llevarse vs Llevar

Keep in mind that when we say llevar, we always know where the thing or person is being taken. If we’re using llevarse with a known destination, the pronominal pronoun (me, te, se, nos) is either emphasizing the action or indicating that the thing was stolen.

Se llevaron mi mochila.
Someone took my backpack away.

(In this case, we don’t know who did it or where the backpack is.)

Victor se llevó trabajo a casa.
Victor took work home with him.

(The emphasis is on the action of Victor taking his work with him.)

Now, let’s compare the use of llevarse vs llevar in example sentences using various verb tenses.

Present Tense

Yo llevo la llave.
I’ve got the key.

Yo me llevo la llave.
I’ll take/I’m taking the key (with me).

Past Imperfect

Yo llevaba la bolsa.
I had the purse (on me).

Yo me llevaba la bolsa.
I was taking the purse (away with me).

Past Progressive

Estaba llevando un abrigo.
He was wearing/carrying a coat.

Se estaba llevando un abrigo.
He was taking (away)/making off with a coat.

Past Preterite

Llevarse is far more common in the preterite, since it denotes a one-time action.

Yo llevé el efectivo.
I took the cash.

Yo me llevé el efectivo.
I took the cash (with me).

Llevó un libro.
He took a book.

Se llevó un libro.
He took/made off with a book.

Take Your Spanish to the Next Level

Amazing! You’ve learned about llevarse vs llevar in Spanish and distinguished the uses of these two verbs. To continue practicing, sign up a free trial class today with our friendly, native Spanish-speaking teachers. One-on-one, personalized classes are the absolute best way to learn Spanish. Enhance your Spanish skills by engaging in real-life conversation.

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus is a bilingual writer and longtime yoga teacher. A former advertising copywriter turned bilingual elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer, editor and translator. A native Texan, Michelle has Mexican roots and learned Spanish in middle and high school. She has become more fluent thanks to living as an expat in Guatemala. She lives with her family on beautiful Lake Atitlan.

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