Difference Between Borrow and Lend
The difference between the words lend and borrow can be confusing to many individuals who are trying to learn the English language. The reason behind this is that the meaning of the words is basically the same. They are both verbs and they both indicate an action in which an item is given to another individual for an amount of time with the expectation that it will be returned. The literal definition for lend is to ‘give something to someone for a short time, expecting that you will get it back. The literal definition for borrow is to ‘get something from someone, intending to give it back after a short time’.[i]
This means that the primary difference is that they are used to indicate different directions. Therefore, lend should be used when something is temporarily given to another person and borrow would be used when something is taken from another person.[ii]
Examples for using borrow correctly would be:
Could I borrow your map?
James let Amos borrow his bicycle.
I don’t own an umbrella so I may have to borrow one if it rains.
Examples for using lend correctly would be:
I will lend you my car for the day.
I never lend people money.
Eli would be happy to lend you one of his pens.
Another difference between the words is how they are both conjugated. The simple past and past participle of lend is lent (rather than lended); the simple past and past participle of borrow is borrowed as it is a regular verb.
Examples for using the past conjugations of borrow would be:
I borrowed his map for the journey.
Anna borrowed a computer to write the report.
He borrowed a pair of shoes for the event.
Examples for using the past conjugations of lend would be:
John lent me his bicycle.
The bank lent me the money needed to purchase the car.
He lent out his computer so he doesn’t have one right now.
The present participle for both words follow a similar structure. For borrow, this would be borrowing and for lend, it would be lending.
Examples for using the present participle of borrow would be:
I am borrowing an umbrella since I do not own one myself.
She is borrowing her mother’s car.
Phil is borrowing the down payment from the bank.
Examples for using the present participle of lend would be:
George is lending his neighbor a lawnmower.
Adam is lending his brother some money.
Erica is lending her jacket to a friend.
To further confuse the ability to grasp the correct usage of these words, they both have alternate meanings and can be used to indicate other things. For instance, the word lend could also mean ‘to be suitable or applicable, to fit.[iii]
Examples for using lend in this capacity include:
The book was complex and therefore, did not lend itself well to a simple interpretation.
The tool was the wrong size and did not lend itself well for the task at hand.
The passage was very rhythmic and lent itself well to a musical adaptation.
Another meaning for the word borrow can be found in mathematics. In subtraction, it can mean ‘to deduct (one) from a digit of the minuend and add ten to the following digit, in order that the subtraction of the larger digit in the subtrahend from the digit in the minuend to which ten is added gives a positive result.’[iv]
An example of this usage would be:
When subtracting 7 from twenty-three, you must use the concept of borrowing since you cannot subtract 7 from 3.
As you can see, there are many similarities between the words lend and borrow. But they can be summed up in an easy concept. Essentially, using the term lend means that you are giving something up and using the term borrow means taking something, though both of them describe a temporary arrangement.
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[i] Lend or borrow? (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary Online. Retrieved September 19, 2016 from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/lend-or-borrow
[ii] Oliver, D. (n.d.). Confusing words: Lend and borrow. Dave’s ESL Café. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from http://www.eslcafe.com/grammar/confusing_words_lend_borrow.html
[iii] Lend. (n.d.). In Wiktionary. Retrieved from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/lend
[iv] Borrow. (n.d.). In Wiktionary. Retrieved from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/borrow