Tomar, Levar, Tirar, Pegar - All mean take?

Olá forum,

This afternoon a work colleague shared a Google Translate screen grab on Facebook. It showed “Tomar, Levar, Tirar, Pegar” being translated to English as “Take, take, take, take”.

This led to a lengthy discussion among my Portuguese colleagues, who tried their best to explain the difference between these words to us estrangeiros but unfortunately they could not really explain as they have never had to think about it.

The only certainties I got were that “Levar” means you are taking the item to another place and “Tirar” means you are taking something from another person. Meaning, you can tirar something and levar it at the same time. I also understood that if you are asking somebody to hold their baby you use “pegar” although this is a very specific example!

Can anybody a more concrete explanation of the times to use (and not use) each one of these with some example sentences?



I would say
Pegar- Catch (a bus), pick up, hold
Tomar- Drink
Tirar- take (away) take out, remove
Levar-Carry, Take away, transport.
Maybe Joseph can add more nuances.

1 Like

My understanding is the “Catch a bus/taxi” sense is the verb apanhar

And that tomar is more widely used for different actions; tomar o pequeno-almoço, tomar um duche, tomar café, probably others as well.


1 Like

I don’t disagree Stephen. There are so many nuances it is up to an individual (like lucocinn) to work on them.
Pegar and Apanhar for instance. Catch a bus…take a bus. Almost the same but subtly different. The first implying immediacy the second intention!! But not always!!!
Tomar has lots of meanings… too many for me to recite or even be aware of…but with drink it is usually beber which is used if alcohol is involved.


Thanks for the help!

1 Like

This is all correct, @stephencanthony.

  • In Portugal, we usually say “apanhar” for catching/taking a bus, train, etc. “Pegar” is just the Brazilian Portuguese choice of verb for the same action. “Pegar” is generally only used in European Portuguese to mean picking up, grabbing or holding something – I agree with that part, @mac.cummings.
  • “Tomar” can be used in a number of ways. All those options you gave certainly apply.

Everything else all of you have already said above is fine :slight_smile: I’ll just add some examples of each, including the different senses of “take” plus at least one other meaning:


  • Ele toma muita medicação. (He takes a lot of medication)
  • Toma o meu casaco, tu precisas de te aquecer. (Take my coat, you need to warm up)
  • Eu tomo café de manhã. (I have coffee in the morning)


  • Querida, vou levar o teu carro. (Honey, I’m going to take your car)
  • Ela leva o irmão à escola. (She takes her brother to school)
  • Leva isto daqui, por favor. (Take this away from here, please)
  • Os alunos levam os livros às costas. (The students carry the books on their backs)


  • Ele tirou os seus sapatos sujos. (He took his dirty shoes off)
  • Nós nunca tiramos o lugar de outra pessoa. (We never take someone else’s place)
  • Vocês tiraram a roupa da secadora. (You took the laundry out of the dryer)
  • Eu vou tirar um curso superior. (I’m going to pursue a university degree)

Pegar - which actually doesn’t really fit in this whole “take” theme, lol.

  • O médico pega no bebé com cuidado. (The doctor holds the baby gently)
  • Ela pegou nas chaves e desapareceu. (She grabbed the keys and disappeared)
  • Ele pega nos brinquedos e atira-os. (He picks up his toys and throws them)

Se eu “catch a bus”, e uso “apanhar” em português. Pegar em Brasil.
Mas muitas vezes em inglaterra nos dizemos " I pick up the bus at 10 o’clock". Pegar ou apanhar?

“Apanhar” is the verb of choice in all cases, @mac.cummings. This is one instance where English is more complicated than Portuguese - it’s hard to keep track of all the different verbs you use just for public transport!

Thanks, all very useful. However, I do have a problem sometimes with levar and trazer. Eg. Should it be: Vou levar uma garrafa de vinho para o meu amigo OR Vou trazer uma garrafa de vinho … Are both correct? My Portuguese friend corrects me sometimes when I used these words but then changes his mind and says ‘actually, you can use either’. Confusão!

1 Like

Oh, @lena.strang, even us native speakers use those two a bit randomly, at times. But well, levar = to take, and trazer = to bring. In terms of direction, just like in English, you’d think of levar as going outward/moving away and of trazer as coming inward/closer. Here are two examples:

  • Ela levou o lixo para fora. (She took out the trash/put out the rubbish).
  • Olá! Eu trago boas novidades! (Hi! I bring good news!)

Aside from this general sense of direction, you also have to consider who you’re talking to.

In your example, with the wine bottle, the choice of verb depends on whether you’re talking to someone you’re going to move closer to or to someone you’re moving away from or that isn’t involved at all.

Let’s say your friend is hosting a party and you’re on the phone with them or with another guest to let them know you’re on your way. In this case, the ideal option is Vou trazer uma garrafa de vinho, because you’re moving towards these people. If, on the other hand, you’re talking to someone who won’t attend the party, you should say Vou levar uma garrafa de vinho, because you’re either moving away from them or they just don’t matter in this context.

When can you use both levar and trazer? Only in the first scenario, where trazer applies. Trazer puts the emphasis on your movement, while levar, in that case, is used neutrally. On the second scenario, it would be wrong to use trazer.