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Confusing Words: Confusing Words: Lend and Borrow

Dennis Oliver
Confusing Words:
Lend and Borrow


The very common verbs lend and borrow are confusing
for many learners of English. One reason this happens is
because lend and borrow have the same basic meaning,
but are used for different "directions" in English.

If B needs ___ and A gives it to B for a limited time
(expecting that B will return it), A lends ___ to B (or
A lends B ___ ) and B borrows ___ from A.


Anne lent $150 to Bill. Anne lent Bill $150.
Bill borrowed $150 from Anne.

Aaron often lends his car to Brenda. /
Aaron often lends Brenda his car.
Brenda often borrows Aaron's car.

B: May I borrow your typewriter?
A: Of course. I'll be happy to lend it to you. /
(Of course. I'll be happy to lend you my typewriter.)




Lend shows that something is (temporarily) given to
another person. Borrow shows that something is
(temporarily) taken from another person.

lend ----> someone

someone ----> borrow



*I borrowed $10 to Jeff

lent $10 to Jeff.



*I lent $10 from Jeff.

borrowed $10 from Jeff.



Special Notes


Both lend and borrow are "one time" verbs:
they can be used in simple tenses, but not
perfect tenses (when the perfect tense has
a time phrase with since to show that an
action continued). Both lend and borrow
can be used in perfect tenses without time
phrases, however:



*I've lent him the money
since last Tuesday.

I've lent him the money



*I've borrowed Bill's car
since this morning.

I've borrowed Bill's car.


Lend and borrow can be used with for;
for shows when the borrowed item is
expected to be returned:

I've lent Bill $100 for two weeks.
(I expect Bill to return the $100 after
two weeks.)

I've borrowed Bill's car for a few hours.
(Bill expects me to return his car after
a few hours.)


Have is also commonly used in situations
involving lend and borrow:

lent Bill some money a week ago.
Bill borrowed some money a week ago.
I've lent Bill some money.
Bill's borrowed some money from me.
Bill's had the money for a week.

borrowed Bill's car this morning.
Bill lent me his car this morning.
I've borrowed Bill's car.
Bill's lent me his car.
I've had Bill's car since this morning.


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