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I had assumed that trazer = “bring” and that levar = “take”. However, I saw a Ciberdúvidas answer that suggested that levar also has a neutral value:

Levar e trazer são ambos co-referenciais de transportar consigo. A diferença está em que trazer pressupõe o movimento de aproximação em relação ao locutor/narrador, ao passo que levar tanto pode indicar o movimento de afastamento em relação ao locutor/narrador, como ter um valor neutral relativamente a esse movimento.'

in Ciberdúvidas da Língua Portuguesa, consultado em 12-11-2021.

And upon looking, the dictionary says that levar can also mean “bring”, so I am wondering what that means? Can I use levar in any situation of bringing something from one place to another?

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  • What dictionary says that levar can also be bring? Please give us the link. I suppose it it a bilingual one? Which one?
    – Lambie
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:32
  • Here is Michaelis: michaelis.uol.com.br/moderno-ingles/busca/… There is no bring there....
    – Lambie
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:38
  • @Lambie Thanks a lot, context.reverso.net/translation/portuguese-english/levar is the one I found it on as "bring" as well. For example in “Eu levei uma coca pra festa” and “eu trouxe uma coca pra festa” the two seem synonymous.
    – Ziegler99
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:49
  • @Lambie, you could write an answer! By the way, I thought the weird difference between take and bring was just English being English, not a mistake. Good to know.
    – Schilive
    Nov 12, 2021 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

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These translations can be tricky, mostly because place perspective can be more flexible in English than in Portuguese (for instance, it's more common in English to mentally put yourself on the place/situation you're talking about). For example, from the WordReference (my emphasis):

I will bring the car over to your house if you drive me home afterwards.
Eu levo o carro até a sua casa se você me levar até em casa depois.

Here you see that the speaker assumes their interlocutor's perspective (assuming they aren't together at the latter's house) in English, while in Portuguese it's usually more natural to use "take", sticking to your own perspective.

This flexibility is nicely described in the American Heritage Dictionary's (via TheFreeDictionary) Usage Note:

The difference between bring and take is one of perspective. Bring indicates motion toward the place from which the action is regarded—typically toward the speaker—while take indicates motion away from the place from which the action is regarded—typically away from the speaker. Thus from a customer's perspective, the customer takes checks to the bank and brings home cash, while from the banker's perspective the customer brings checks to the bank in order to take away cash. When the point of reference is not the place of speaking itself, either verb is possible, but the correct choice still depends on the desired perspective. For example, The labor leaders brought their requests to the mayor's office suggests a point of view centered around the mayor's office, while The labor leaders took their requests to the mayor's office suggests a point of view centered around the labor leaders. Be aware that the choice of bring or take determines the point of view emphasized. For example, a parent sitting at home may say of a child, She always takes a pile of books home with her from school, describing the situation from the child's viewpoint leaving school. If the viewpoint shifts to the speaker, bring becomes appropriate, as in Look, I see her coming right now, and she's bringing a whole armful of books!

So

trazer = “bring” and that levar = “take”

is a good rule of thumb, but it'll work best if you remember to keep the speaker's own current perspective.

And finally answering your main question

Can I use levar in any situation of bringing something from one place to another?

Mostly yes, as the dictionary attests: while the first meaning of "trazer" is (my emphasis)

Transportar para cá
[to transport [it] here]

the first meaning of "levar" is simply "to transport":

Fazer passar (de um lugar) para (outro); transportar
[to make it go (from a place) to (another); to transport]

that is, in principle "levar" is more general, neutral (though most often it's not used when this other place is "here").

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  • "I will bring the car to your house" is OK because the car and you are in the same place. You are bringing it with yourself. One person can say: Will you bring my car over later? They are at home. You can't use "bring" from another person's perspective. But saying: "I brought his car over last night" only makes sense if you are at the place to which it is brought.
    – Lambie
    Nov 12, 2021 at 18:59
  • To me it seems that in "I will bring the car to your house" they are not in the same place since it's only hypothetical or in the future.
    – stafusa
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:01
  • The car and the speaker are in the same place and will move to "your house". I will bring the car to you from my house. In any case, the fact levar/trazer were both translated as bring on that site means there was a mistake between bring and take a coke to the party.
    – Lambie
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:02
  • The first meaning of trazer is not transport. It's bring. Ele trouxe os sapatos para casa. He brought the shoes home. The English is not more flexible. 3/4s of the time, English speakers misuse bring and take. In fact, AmE speakers hardly ever use take at all anymore. Too bad.
    – Lambie
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:04
  • Well, maybe you still have to rent the car the next morning.
    – stafusa
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:05
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I can't see those examples because I would have to register.

That said, I am not at all surprised at what must be translating levar by bring here. AmE speakers for some reason I cannot fathom constantly misuse bring/take.

The Portuguese examples say: I took [levei] and I brought [trouxe] a coke to the party. And bear this mind" If you say (in English and Portuguese), "I brought a coke to the party.", you are still at the damn party. :)

The English mistake one often sees is this: "She brought her kids to the park". When she is no longer at the park and what is really meant is: "She took her kids to the park". That was probably the kind of mistake on that website.

In any event, there is no doubt that levar is take and trazer is bring.

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