When to Use Borrow, Lend and Loan
by Candice Chovanec Melzow

In some areas of the United States, it is customary to use the word borrow in place of lend and loan. However,borrow does not have the same meaning as lend and loan. The examples below illustrate why these words are not interchangeable.

Borrow is a verb that means to use something that belongs to someone else, usually with the intention of returning it. When you ask to borrow something, you are asking to use something that belongs to someone else.

     EX: May I borrow your pen?

     EX: Jane’s father said that she could borrow the car on Saturday evening.

Lend is a verb that means to allow someone to use something temporarily on the condition that it will be returned. When someone else asks to borrow something from you, you agree to lend it to them.  The past tense of lend is lent.

     EX: The library lends books to all county residents.  

     EX: The stranger lent the stranded motorists some jumper cables.

Lend/lent can also be used figuratively to mean to contribute a particular quality to something.

     EX: The bright colors lent a festive feeling to the room.

     EX: The ragged scarecrow lends an eerie quality to the garden.

Loan, when used as a verb, means to lend someone something concrete (a physical object).

     EX: Josh will loan his textbook to you if you agree to return it by Thursday.

     EX: Barbara and Ted loaned their nephew $10,000.

Note that loan can be used grammatically in place of lend when lend is being used to refer to something concrete. However, loan cannot be used in place of lend or lent when the words are being used figuratively as in the second set of examples – to describe a quality.

In summary, borrow cannot be interchanged with either lend or loan, so it is not grammatically correct to say “Will you borrow me your pencil?” The correct expression is “Will you lend me your pencil?” “May I borrow your pencil?” is also correct, but notice that the action has now shifted away from the person doing the lending to the person requesting that the pencil be lent (you lend to me and I borrow from you).                                              

Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Candice Chovanec Melzow

In addition to our website, we recommend the “Do You Speak American Website?” athttp://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/. This website discusses 14 different varieties of American English and features a quiz where users can listen to audio samples and try to identify the geographical area of the country that the speaker is from.

Test Your Knowledge
by Candice Chovanec Melzow

Test your understanding of borrow, lend and loan by choosing the correct word in each of the sentences below.

1. May I (borrow, loan, lend) your copy of The Great Gatsby?

2. The bow (borrowed, loaned, lent) a feminine air to the costume.

3. Will you (borrow, loan, lend) me your bicycle?

4. Sam will (borrow, loan, lend) the truck from Barbara this weekend.

1. May I borrow your copy of The Great Gatsby?

2. The bow lent a feminine air to the costume.

3. Will you loan or lend me your bicycle?

4. Sam will borrow the truck from Barbara this weekend.

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