Many words in English are commonly confused by both those learning the language and native speakers alike. Two such words are “borrow” and “lend”. These words are commonly confused as they are both used in very similar contexts, but they both have distinct meanings. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the difference between “borrow” and “lend” and how to use them correctly in a sentence when speaking or writing.
Check out other easily confused words in English by visiting this page. Teachers and students can download this guide as a PDF file using the link at the bottom of the page.
“Borrow” is a verb that means to receive something from someone else with the intention of returning it later. “Borrow” can mean receive, have, take or use temporarily. The person who borrows the item is the borrower. The direct object is the item received. Whoever gave the item can be connected to the sentence using the preposition “from”. For example, “I borrowed some money from my dad.”
How to use “borrow” in a sentence:
- Can I borrow your pen, please?
- I need to borrow some money from my parents to pay my rent.
- She borrowed a dress from her sister for the wedding.
- He always borrows my car when his is in the shop.
- They borrowed some tools from their neighbour to fix the fence.
- We can’t borrow any more books from the library; we already have too many.
“Lend” is a verb that means to give something to someone else for a temporary period, with the expectation that it will be returned later. The person who lends the item is the lender. The direct object is the item given. Whoever receives the item can be connected to the sentence using the preposition “to”. For example, “I lent some money to my son.”
How to use “lend” in a sentence:
- Can you lend me your phone for a minute?
- I will lend you my notes, but please return them after the test.
- The bank is willing to lend me some money to buy a house.
- My neighbour always lends me her lawnmower when I need it.
- He lent his car to his sister for the weekend.
- The company is reluctant to lend its equipment to anyone outside the organisation.
Why are “borrow” and “lend” commonly confused?
“Borrow” and “lend” are often confused because they have similar meanings and are often used in the same context. In colloquial English, it is common to hear native speakers use the verbs the wrong way round. For example, someone may say “Can you borrow me some money?” or “I lent some money from my dad.” However, the difference between them lies in the direction of the action. “Borrow” means to take, receive or have temporarily, and “lend” means to give temporarily.
borrow – a verb which means to receive temporarily
lend – a verb which means to give temporarily
Do you know the difference between “borrow” and “lend”?
Fill in the blanks in the following activity with the correct form of the word (“borrow” and “lend”):
- Can you ________ me your bike? I promise to take good care of it.
- She always ________ her earrings to her sister for special occasions.
- I need to ________ some money from the bank to pay my rent.
- Phil still hasn’t paid back the money he ________ from me.
- My boss is willing to ________ me the money for the conference registration fee.
- I don’t like to ________ my clothes to anyone because they might get ruined.
- Can I ________ a pen from you? I forgot to bring one to the meeting.
- She promised to ________ me her car for the weekend.
- We can’t ________ any more money from our friends; we need to find a job.
- He ________ his umbrella to his coworker because it was raining outside.
Answers: 1. lend, 2. lends, 3. borrow, 4. borrowed, 5. lend, 6. lend, 7. borrow, 8. lend, 9. borrow, 10. lent