How To Use the Spanish Verb ‘Llevar’

Meanings have expanded far beyond ‘to carry’

guy with beard for Spanish lesson
Ha decidido llevar la barba. (He has decided to sport a beard.).

 Tony C French / Getty Images

The Spanish verb llevar used to mean primarily to carry a heavy burden. However, it has become one of the most flexible verbs in the language, used not only in discussing what a person carries, but also what a person wears, has, does, tolerates, or moves. As a result, it isn't easy to tell what llevar means out of context.

Using Llevar for ‘To Wear’

One of the most common uses of llevar is as the equivalent of "to wear" clothing or accessories. It can also refer to wearing or sporting a type of style, such as tattoos or a type of hairdo.

Normally, if a person is wearing a type of item of which he or she would wear or use only one at a time, the indefinite article (un or una, the equivalent of "a" or "an") is not used. Often the definite article (el or la (the equivalent of "the") can be used instead. In other words, Spanish doesn't say the equivalent of "I am wearing a dress" but often "I am wearing the dress." If the identity of the item is important, such as if the sentence identifies the item's color, an indefinite article is retained.

  • No es necesario llevar el sombrero. (It isn't necessary to wear your hat.)
  • Ha decidido llevar la barba. (He has decided to sport a beard.)
  • No olvides taparte el cuello y lleva camisa de manga larga. (Don't forget to cover up your neck and wear a long-sleeved shirt.)
  • No sabemos cómo vamos a llevar el pelo. (We don't know how we are going to wear our hair.)
  • Mi amiga no llevó la cara pintada. (My friend wasn't wearing face paint.)

Using Llevar for ‘To Carry’

Another common use for llevar is to indicate that someone or something is being carried or transported. It can be used for carrying by people as well as by machines.

  • No puedo llevar nada más. (I can't carry anything else.)
  • El avión lleva como máximo 178 pasajeros. (The plane carries a maximum of 178 passages.)
  • Llevaron a sus hijos a un concierto en el parque. (They took their children to a concert in the park.)
  • Los buses llevaron a los invitados al hotel. (The buses took the invitees to the hotel.)
  • El camión lleva siete grandes tanques de hidrógeno. (The truck carries seven large tanks of hydrogen.)
  • Quiero llevar la voz del radicalismo a todos los barrios. (I want to take the voice of radicalism to all the neighborhoods.)

Other Uses for Llevar

Here are examples of llevar in use with meanings other than "to wear" or "to carry," along with possible translations. As can be seen, llevar is a versatile verb that frequently involves having or managing something in a broad sense of the terms.

  • llevar (algo)—to tolerate, cope or deal with (something): (Lleva muy bien las derrotas. (He puts up with defeat very well.)
  • llevar (algo or a alguien)—to transport (something or someone): Pedro nos llevó al aeropuerto. (Pedro took us to the airport.)
  • llevar (ingrediente)—to have or include (an ingredient): A mi madre le gusta todo lo que lleva chocolate. (My mother likes anything with chocolate in it.)
  • llevar (un vehículo)—to drive (a vehicle): Llevó el coche a Madrid. (She drove the car to Madrid.)
  • llevar (una organización o una empresa)—to direct, run or lead (an organization or business): Ingrid lleva la tienda de artesanía. (Ingrid runs the artists' store.)
  • llevar (un nombre)—to bear (a name): Una calle de Candelaria lleva el nombre de José Rodríguez Ramírez. (A Candelaria street bears the name of José Rodríguez Ramírez.)
  • llevar (tiempo)—to last (time): Llevo meses diciendo que hay metodologias alternativas. (I've been saying for months there are other ways.) Llevo tres días sin dormir. (I've gone three days without sleeping.)
  • llevar (dinero)—to charge (money): El revendedor me llevó mucho dinero por los boletos. (The scalper charged me a lot of money for the tickets.)

Using Llevarse

Llevarse, the reflexive form of llevar, also has a variety of meanings:

  • llevarse—to get along with or be suitable for: Nos llevamos bien. (We get along well together.) No se lleva bien con su madre. (He doesn't get along well with his mother.) Este año se lleva bien los pantalones cortos. (Short pants are in style this year.)
  • llevarse (algo)—to take (something): Llévatelo. (Take it with you.) Quisiera llevarme la flor. (I'd like to take the flower with me.)
  • llevarse (algo)—to receive or win (something): Se llevó el premio Nobel. (She won the Nobel Prize.)

Idioms Using Llevar

Here are examples of idiomatic phrases using llevar:

  • dejarse llevar—to be carried along, to go with the flow: Opté por lo que sentÍ en el momento y me dejé llevar por la incertidumbre. (I chose according to what I felt at the moment and let myself be carried along with the uncertainty.)
  • llevar a (algo)—to lead to (something): La mediación papal llevó a la paz entre Argentina y Chile. (The pope's mediation led to peace between Argentina and Chile.) Me llevó a creer que es inteligente. (She led me to believe she is intelligent.)
  • llevar a cabo—to accomplish, to perform: Alrededor de 400 personas llevaron a cabo la Marcha por La Dignidad. (About 400 people demonstrated in the March for Dignity.)
  • llevar a cenar—to take out to dinner: Lo mejor es que nos llevó a cenar en la ciudad vieja. (The best thing is that she took us to dinner in the old city.)
  • llevar cuenta—to keep account; ¿Quién lleva cuenta del resultado? (Who's keeping track of the score?)
  • llevar encima—to have on one's person: En ese momento me di cuenta de que no llevaba dinero encima. (At that moment I realized that I didn't have any money on me.)
  • para llevar—"to go" (as in takeout food) — Quisiera dos hamburguesas para llevar. (I'd like two hamburgers to go.)

Key Takeaways

  • The Spanish verb llevar is commonly in referring to what a person is wearing.
  • Llevar is also commonly used as meaning "to carry" or "transport."
  • Llevar has a wide range of other meanings that have more than a dozen English equivalents.