Imagine that you are in the middle of a meeting and suddenly you realize that you don’t have anything to write with. How do you ask a colleague for a pen? Do you use the word lend or borrow? If it takes you a while to answer this question, I suggest you keep reading this blog post. We will go over the definition and possible usage for each one of them to help you understand the difference between the verbs borrow and lend. Let’s get started, shall we? 

What kind of words are they? 

As we have mentioned before, borrow and lend are verbs. Verbs are words used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. Here are some other common verbs: do, eat, sleep, buy.  

Regular verbs

Borrow is a regular verb. Just to recap: regular verbs in English are the ones we add “ed” to form the past simple or past participle form. There are hundreds of regular verbs in the English language.  

Take a look at the table below to see how we form the past simple and past participle forms for borrow

Infinitive Past Simple Past Participle 
borrow borrowed borrowed 

Here are some examples: 

  • Present: I need to borrow a pen from you. 
  • Past Simple: I borrowed a pen from you yesterday. 
  • Past Participle: I have borrowed many pens from you already, haven’t I? 

Irregular verbs

Lend, on the other hand, is what we call an irregular verb. Just to recap: irregular verbs in English are the ones which do not follow normal rules for conjugation. There are about 200 irregular verbs in the English language. Some irregular verbs are: be, come, drink, eat, quit. Take a look at the below to see how we form the past simple and past participle forms for lend

Infinitive Past Simple Past Participle 
lend lent lent 

Here are some examples: 

  • Present: Do you often lend clothes to your sister? 
  • Past Simple: Julia lent her yellow dress to her younger sister last Friday. 
  • Past Participle: Julia has lent many of her jackets to her sisters. 

Check out a list with the most used irregular verbs in English here

Borrow: to take something from someone 

Borrow means to take something from someone to use it for a period of time with the intention of returning it to the owner afterwards. If you borrow, you take. This is the sentence structure we use with borrow

borrow something from someone 

Examples:  

  • Liam needs to borrow $10 from his mom. 
  • They want to borrow the car from their parents. 
  • I will borrow some sugar from my neighbor. 
  • I have never borrowed money from my parents. 

Which preposition should I use with borrow

As we have mentioned before, when you borrow something you are taking an object from someone. The preposition from will then always be used when forming sentences with borrow. You can’t say, for instance, She always wants to borrow money to meThe correct sentence is: She always wants to borow money from me. 

In some cases, you don’t use any preposition. You can also just something like: 

  • Can I borrow a pen? 
  • Could he borrow your phone charger, please? 

Lend: to give something to someone 

Lend means to give something to someone so that the person can use it for a period of time and then return it to the owner afterwards. If you lend, you give. These are the sentence structures we use with lend

lend something to someone 

Examples: 

  • Katie will lend her car to me on the weekend. 
  • My mom doesn’t like to lend money to her siblings. 
  • I would never lend my car to somebody I don’t know very well. 
  • I have never lent a penny to someone in my life. 

lend someone something 

Examples:  

  • Dad, can you lend me your phone charger? 
  • Paul will lend his girlfriend some money, 
  • I would never lend Becky my credit card. She is such a shopaholic! 
  • I hate lending people my things. 

Which preposition should I use with lend

You have two options here. If you use the first structure, which is lend something to someone, the preposition used is always to. You can’t say, for instance, I can definitely lend money from SarahThe correct sentence is: I can definitely lend money to Sarah. 

If you want to simplify things, you can just use the second sentence structure, which uses no preposition whatsoever. In this case, the object of the sentence, which is the person who will receive the thing lent by the subject, will be placed right after the verb lend.  

Structure 1 with lend

Subject lend + direct object (the thing that you are giving) + to indirect object (person who receives the direct object) 

  • Grandma lends hecar to Julia

Subject: Grandma 
Direct object: her car 
Preposition: to 
Indirect object: Julia 

lend

Structure 2 with lend

Subject lend + indirect object (person who receives the object) + direct object (the thing that you are giving) 

  • Grandma lends Julia her car. 

Subject: Grandma 
Indirect Object: Julia 
Direct object: her car 

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We know that the words borrow and lend are confusing words in English, but take your time to practice and you will soon no longer struggle to use them in a sentence. If you have any questions about the difference between borrow and lend, let us know in the comment section down below. Before you go, make sure to read this blog post on two other confusing words: make and do. We wouldn’t want you making any mistakes, now would we?