BORROW vs LEND – Your best guide (25 real examples + PDF)

Borrow means to take or use something that belongs to someone else and return it to them at a later time.
Can I borrow $10?
Lend is the opposite, this means to give something or let someone use something and have it returned to you at a later time.
Can you lend me $10?

One of my private English students asked me if there was a trick to help them remember the difference between the verbs lend and borrow. My student was confusing these words sometimes in conversation.

I built this lesson for them and now I want to share it with my blog readers who may have the same question. I’m sure it will help you too. 

Borrow and Lend difference

borrow [verb] to take and use something that belongs to somebody else, and return it to them at a later time
“Can I borrow $10.00?” = Can I GET $10.00 from you? (I will give the $10 back later.)
lend [verb] to give something to somebody or allow them to use something that belongs to you, which they have to return to you later
“Can you lend me $10.00?” = Can you GIVE me $10.00? (for now, not forever)
Definitions from http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/

The best way to learn the verbs BORROW and LEND

You can use each of these words in a sentence to explain the same action BUT – BORROW and LEND use different grammar. The subject and/or object of the sentence are not the same. 

Let me explain with 2 examples.

  • “Can I borrow $10.00?”
  • “Can you lend me $10.00?”

These 2 sentences have the same meaning. Whether you need to use lend or borrow depends on the subject of your sentence. I have had success explaining this to my students by comparing lend and borrow with the verbs give and get.

BORROW is like get
LEND is like give
The difference is that BORROW and LEND both mean that the thing (money, clothes, car etc.) will return to the original owner after some time. Give and get do not.

Let me explain using our original examples and you will see how we can use the same grammar.

Borrow and Lend

Borrow meaning

borrow [verb] to take and use something that belongs to somebody else, and return it to them at a later time
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary BORROW

  • “Can I borrow $10.00?”

The grammar for borrow is the same as get.

  • Can I get $10.00?

In both sentences the subject is I. The grammar for the sentence with I borrow is the same as the grammar for the sentence with I get. The difference is the meaning.

(Borrow is not forever, it’s for a limited amount of time. After some time you will get the $10.00 back from me.)

*Note this is one specific use of the verb getto receive something
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists 27 uses for get! LINK

LEND and BORROW - borrow

Lend meaning

lend [verb] to give something to somebody or allow them to use something that belongs to you, which they have to return to you later
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary LEND

  • “Can you lend me $10.00?”

The grammar for lend is the same as give.

  • Can you give me $10.00?

In this sentence, the subject is you. The grammar for the sentence with you lend is the same as the grammar for the sentence with you give.
(The difference is that lend is not forever, it’s for a limited amount of time. After some time I will give the $10.00 back to you.)

LEND and BORROW - LEND

12 Borrow and Lend example sentences

I built a table to give examples and compare borrow and lend in different verb tenses.

Infinitive
TO BORROW – I don’t like to borrow money from my friends. It puts stress on their relationship.
TO LEND – I don’t want to lend money to my friends either. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but money makes people do strange things.
Present tense
BORROW – Students in Canada can borrow money from the government to help pay for university.
LEND – Did you lend your car to Marco? He’s not a good driver.
Present tense third-person singular
BORROWS – My sister often borrows my clothes because we are the same size.
LENDS – John is very kind. He lends money to anyone who needs help.
Learn more about Third-person singular English grammar
Past
BORROWED – Tony borrowed my umbrella but he hasn’t given it back yet. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.
LENT – Is Calvin at the office today? He lent me some money to buy lunch yesterday and I need to pay him back.
Past participle
BORROWED – I don’t trust Keith anymore. He has borrowed money from all of his friends but he hasn’t paid anyone back.
LENT – I have lent money to friends in the past and it caused trouble in our relationship. (This sentence is the perfect tense)
Continuous
(to be) BORROWING
A: “I like your car!”
B: “Thanks, but it’s not mine, it’s my brother’s. I’m just borrowing it for the weekend.”
(to be) LENDING
A: “Can you show me your new car?”
B: “It’s not here now. I’m lending it to my brother for the weekend.”

Lend and Borrow – grammar

Borrow and Get can both be used with the preposition FROM.

  • Most people borrow money from the bank to buy a house.
  • I borrowed the ladder from my neighbor. 
    (Borrow something FROM someone)
  • I always get money from my parents on my birthday. 
  • Tina got a diamond ring from her boyfriend.
  • (Get something FROM someone)

Lend and Give can both be used with the preposition TO.

  • Rick lent his car to Mike.
  • I will lend some money to my brother.
    (Lend something TO someone) 
  • I gave a necklace to my wife. 
  • Dennis always gives money to charity.
  • (Give something TO someone)

The difference between To and For (30+ examples Learn fast)

At the top of this post, we used two example sentences. Both examples are questions.

  • Can I borrow…?
  • Can you lend…?

We can offer to LEND something to someone but we can’t offer to BORROW something.

  • I can lend you some money if you need it.
  • I can lend you my car while yours is getting fixed.

Idioms with BORROW and LEND

On borrowed time

This expression can be used in a few ways, the main feeling is that a current situation will not last much longer. It will come to a sudden end.

  • People are unhappy with the Prime Minister, he is sure to be voted out in the coming election. He and his party are on borrowed time now.

Be living on borrowed time

  • My grandfather suffered a second heart attack this week. He is living on borrowed time right now so the family is preparing for the inevitable. 

inevitable adjective – that you cannot avoid or prevent

  • Disease and accidents can happen at any time. It’s important to enjoy your life and live every day like it has meaning, we are all living on borrowed time.

Lend a hand

This is a common expression that means to help someone.

  • A: The party was fun but now the house is a mess!
    B: Don’t worry, we can lend a hand. Your house will be clean in no time.
  • A typhoon affected the 2019 World Cup rugby tournament in Japan. Canada’s final game was canceled, but the team lent a hand to clean up the area hit by the storm. 

Give a hand is also used – give will be followed by a subject.

  • Don’t worry, we can give you a hand. Your house will be clean in no time.
  • Canada’s national rugby team gave the city a hand to clean up the affected areas.

Affect Vs Effect – Learn FAST (Over 20 REAL examples)

Borrow and Lend Video

Borrow Vs. Lend Worksheet

Download the Quiz as a printable PDF worksheet. Great for teachers to use with private or group classes. ↓

Borrow Vs. Lend Infographic

Borrow Vs. Lend infographic

Borrow Vs. Lend conclusion

So if you’re not sure how to say your sentence just replace borrow with get and see if it sounds correct. If you’re not sure which subject to use just replace lend with give and see if it sounds natural. If it does, you’re using lend and borrow correctly!

LEND and BORROW

Find more than 30 blog posts that help answer some of your confusing English questions. Click HERE!

3 thoughts on “BORROW vs LEND – Your best guide (25 real examples + PDF)”

  1. Pingback: Verb and noun pairs with examples (audio+PDF) - World English Blog

  2. Pingback: Do you have Confusing English questions? (Get Answers!)

  3. Pingback: The difference between To and For (30+ examples Learn fast!)

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: