to lend (→): to give someone something that you expect to get back later
to borrow (←): to get something from someone that you expect to give back later
The difference is the direction of the object. When you lend (→), you give. When you borrow (←), you get.
The Verb ‘to lend’ (lend/lent/lent)
Meaning: to give something to someone that you expect to get back later.
When you lend something to someone, you do it for free. (When you charge money for the item, it is usually called loaning or renting).
Example: He lent some money to his son.
The verb lend has two grammatical patterns:
1) lend + direct object ( + [to recipient] )
E.g. Libraries lend books [to people].
The direct object is the thing that is lent (given).
2) lend + indirect object + direct object
E.g. Libraries lend people books.
The indirect object is the receiver of the thing.
Both patterns are common and have the same meaning.
- He lent some money to his son. (direct object + [to recipient])
- He lent his son some money. (indirect object + direct object)
To Verb ‘to borrow’ (borrow/borrowed/borrowed)
Meaning: to get something to someone that you will return later. Again, you usually do not pay to borrow something.
Example: He borrows money from his parents.
This verb only has one grammar pattern, which is the regular pattern of most verbs:
1) borrow + direct object ( + [from lender] )
E.g. People borrow books [from libraries].
The direct object is the thing that is given.
Lend vs. Borrow: Which Verb Should You Use?
Often you can use either verb. For example:
The child borrowed money from his parents.
The parents lent money to their child.
Both sentences express the same action. The first sentence focuses on the action of the child, while the second focuses on the parents. The meaning is the same but the focus is different.
Common Mistake: Can you borrow me some money?
There are two mistakes here:
- The person who has the money (you) doesn’t need to borrow it (get it). You already have it. The person who wants the money should ask, “Can you lend me some money?”
- The verb borrow does not take an indirect object (“me”). If you say “borrow me” it means to borrow a person, which is a strange idea.
Lend vs. Borrow: Remember the Grammar Differences
If you are taking an English test, remember that the sentence structure and prepositions (to or from) can make it clear which verb should be used.
Ex. Paola ____ her brother her backpack.
Explanation: There are no prepositions here. The verb is followed by two objects. One is the recipient (the indirect object) and the other is the object/item (the direct object). Lend can use this structure, but borrow cannot. So the correct verb is lent.
Ex. Ray ____ a pen to Amar.
Explanation: The preposition to matches lend. You cannot use ‘to‘ with borrow. Therefore, Ray gave (lent) a pen to Amar.
Ex. We want to _____ some money from our parents.
Explanation: The preposition from matches borrow. You cannot use ‘from‘ with lend.
- to borrow is to give; to lend is to get
- lend can be followed by a direct or indirect object, but borrow cannot be followed by an indirect object
- borrow uses the preposition ‘from’ and lend uses the preposition ‘to’
Do you think you understand the difference? Try these exercises below.
Exercise Group #1: Borrow vs. Lend
- Frank gave his coat to his brother to use for the day. In other words, Frank it to his brother.
- Mark is rich, so he has money. He it to his friends sometimes.
- Mandeep is not rich. He does not have money. He it from his parents sometimes.
- Can I your pen, please?
- Can you me a pen, please?
Answers & Explanations
- lent (+ direct object + [to recipient]). To give something it to lend it. Also, the preposition ‘to’ matches lend (not borrowed).
- lends (+ direct object + [to recipient]). The person who has something can lend it (you cannot lend money if you have none!). Also the preposition ‘to’ matches lend.
- borrows (+ direct object + [from borrower]). He does not have it, so he has to borrow it. Also, the preposition ‘from’ matches lend.
- borrow (+ direct object + [from borrower]). The subject of the sentence, “I”, doesn’t have a pen. The subject wants to get (borrow) a pen.
- lend (+ indirect object + direct object). The subject of the sentence, “you”, has a pen. The person asking the question wants you to give (lend) a pen. Also, lend follows the indirect object + direct object pattern. Borrow does not.
Exercise Group #2: Borrow vs. Lend
- Alan a book from the library. He will return it next week.
- Rina a book to her friend. She hopes she will get it back next week.
- I my friend my football, so I don’t have it now.
- I also my basketball to my friend, so I don’t have that either.
- In other words, my friend my football and my basketball.
Answers & Explanations
- borrowed (+ direct object + [from borrower]). The subject, Alan, got (borrowed) a book. He has it until next week. Also, the preposition ‘from’ matches borrow.
- lent (+ direct object + [to recipient]). The subject, Rina, gave (lent) her book. She doesn’t have it anymore. Also, the preposition ‘to’ matches lend.
- lent (+ indirect object + direct object) . The subject here, I, doesn’t have the football anymore. That means that the subject (“I”) gave it (lent) away.
- lent (+ direct object + [to recipient]) . The subject here, I, doesn’t have the basketball anymore. That means that the subject (“I”) gave it (lent) away.
- borrowed (+ direct object). The subject here, your friend, has both balls. That means he got (borrowed) them. The words ‘from me’ are not needed in the sentence because they are optional (and not necessary).
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