Borrow or Lend: What’s the difference?

It’s easy to confuse these two terms. They are used when we give or take something that will be returned (Well, we hope it will!)

What's the difference between borrow and lend?

LEND = Give

To lend is to give someone something for a short time. Lend requires a direct pronoun (money, a phone, a sweater, etc.) and an indirect object pronoun (me, him, her, us, them, my friend, the students, etc.)

Notice that in each of these sentences, we can replace the word lend with the verb give-gave-given and it will have the same meaning.

  • I lent my friend $5000 so she could get a new apartment. (I gave…)
  • Could you lend me some money? (Could you give…)
  • Have you ever lent money to friends? And if so, do they always pay you back? (Have you ever given…)

BORROW = Take

Borrow means to take. It means you are asking to take something from someone and return it in the future. You can use the verb take-took-taken in the following sentences and have the same meaning.

  • My friend borrowed $5000 from me so she could move into a new apartment. (My friend took $5000…)
  • Could I borrow some money? (Could I take…)
  • She promised to pay back the money she had borrowed. (…the money she had taken.)

Remember, lend = give and borrow = take

Need a loan? Borrow some cash from a friend!
Need a loan?

When we borrow money from a person or a bank, it is called a loan.

Check out this classic episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld to see how lending money to friends can sometimes be complicated…and very funny!

Jerry can lend you $5000.00!

Do you think Jerry will lend her the money? I’m sure he was happy that his friend Kramer was there to negotiate the deal!

Pay (someone) back = return money that was borrowed

When talking about borrowing money, we use the phrasal verb to pay back. This is a separable phrasal verb, meaning we often use an object noun or pronoun in the middle of the phrase.

  • When can she pay me back?
  • She shouldn’t borrow money from Jerry unless she is sure she can pay him back!

Give (something) back = return an item that was borrowed

When talking about borrowing a car, phone, or other items, we use the phrasal verb to give back.

  • Did she give your bike back to you after she borrowed it?
  • You borrowed my umbrella three months ago. Please give it back!

Now it’s your turn. Can you describe each photo below using both borrow and lend?

Thanks, dad!

Example: I borrowed my father’s credit card. My father lent me his credit card.

Write your answers in the comments below to see if you’ve got the hang of it. When you finish, lend this post to your friends to improve their English, too!

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