Lend Versus Borrow

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Definition of “lend”

When you “lend” something, you allow, give or grant permission for someone to use something on the condition they return the thing or things. “Lend” is an irregular verb, which means it does not take the “–ed” ending. The verb forms are:

  • lend (present tense)
  • lending (present participle)
  • lent (past tense and past participle)

Definition of “borrow”

When you “borrow” something, you obtain, get or take something with the expectation that the thing or things are returned as promised. “Borrow” is a regular verb that adds “–ed” to form past tense and past participle verbs. The verb forms are:

  • borrow (present tense)
  • borrowing (present participle)
  • borrowed (past tense)

Using “lend” and “borrow” in sentences

Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Marcy asked, “Can you lend me your car for an hour?” (Marcy asks to take the car with the expectation to return it in a specified period of time.)

Example 2: Seth answered, “You can borrow the car if you promise to return it by noon.” (Seth gave the car to Marcy for a certain period of time.)

Example 3: Mr. Drake, the bank manager, approved the application and is lending money to the new homeowners. (Mr. Drake gave the homeowners money (a loan) for a certain period of time.)

Example 4: Mr. & Mrs. Sherman are borrowing money for a new home from the bank. (Mr. & Mrs. Sherman took the money for a period of time with the bank manager’s permission.)

Example 5: Sean lent his tools to Anthony last weekend. (Sean gives his tools to Anthony.)

Example 6: John borrowed a calculator from Kimberly. (John took the calculator from Kimberly.)

When in doubt

“Lend” and “borrow” are frequently used incorrectly. Although similar in meaning, “lend” and “borrow” are not interchangeable. If you are unsure of which word to use, try substituting the word “give” for lend and “take” for borrow. By doing this, the correct word is clear. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Could you “give” me some milk for my coffee?

Example 2: Could you “take” me some milk for my coffee?

By substituting the words “give” and “take,” it is clear that “lend” is the correct word. The correct sentence reads: Could you lend me some milk for my coffee?