Common English Mistakes and Mix-ups: lend and borrow

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Some students find these two words confusing while others have no problem. However, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to write a short explanation :).

Lend is a verb that means to allow someone to have something (like money) or use something (like a book) for a certain amount of time with the knowledge that you will eventually get it (the money or the book) back.

Lend is usually used in 2 types of sentences:

As a statement:

My brother lent me his car for the weekend so I could visit my friend in Boston.

I always lend money to people, but I never get it back! I have to stop doing that…

As a request:

Can you lend me your hairdryer for a few days? I need one for the trip I am taking.

You can see that how you use it, determines whether or not you need a preposition:

*  You can lend someone something.

*  I can ask, “Can you lend me something?”

X     However, you can NOT lend something someone.

*  You can only lend something TO someone. 

So, the form can be complicated depending on the type of noun follows lend.

Borrow means to take something (like money or a book) from someone for a certain amount of time with the knowledge that you, eventually, have to give it (the money or the book) back.

Borrow can also be used as a statement or a request:

As a statement:

I borrowed my friend’s crockpot so I could make a hearty stew.

People always borrow my books because I have a great collection!

As a request:

Can I borrow your dog this afternoon? It will help me meet some cute girls in the park.

The form of borrow is a bit more straight forward. Whether you make a statement or a request, the form is usually someone borrows something. You can also make a statement with from (I borrowed this book from my mom), but why say a longer sentence if you don’t have to? The only case that I can think of where this form is absolutely necessary is if someone asks me, “Where’d you get that book?” Then I would say “I borrowed it from my mom.” This brings me to my next point which is why this is all so confusing!

In the above point I can use borrow, but I can also use lend (My mom lent me this book)!This is what mixes people up. If you can use the words interchangeably, don’t they mean the same thing? The answer is no.

So, how can you decide? They key for me is in the subject. Is the subject or the sentence the giver (lender) or the taker (borrower)? Once you identify this, you will be able to choose the correct verb.

One last tip, remember that lend rhymes with friend! Usually my friends are the ones who lend me things.  So, I think…I borrow from my friend, but my friend is the one who lends!

I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any other tricks to help remember the differences.

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