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. I built this detailed lesson for them and now I want to share it with my blog readers.
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?“
Keep reading for a detailed look at these 2 verbs and never confuse them again. This has been great for my private English students in Japan and I’m sure it will help you too.
Table of Contents
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)|
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 [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
- 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 get – to receive something
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists 27 uses for get! LINK
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
(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.)
12 Borrow and Lend example sentences
I built a table to give examples and compare borrow and lend in different verb tenses.
|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.|
|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|
|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.|
|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)|
|(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)
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.
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 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!
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