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Common Error: Confusing "Borrow," "Lend," and "Loan"

You’re in English class taking notes, but you just made a mistake. The girl sitting next to you has an eraser, but you can’t remember how to ask her if you can use it. What do you say?

People often misuse the words borrow, lend, and loan. This mistake is not the kind that causes major misunderstanding, but it’s still a common error that my students often make. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Common Error: Confusing “borrow,” “lend,” and “loan”
DON’T say this: Can you borrow me your pen?
I am going to see if I can lend some money from Peter.
WHY? -To borrow something means to take it.
-To lend or loan something means to give it to someone.
-Additionally, all three words can function as verbs, but only loan can also function as a noun.
INSTEAD, SAY THIS: -“Could you please lend/loan me your pen?”
-“Could I borrow your pen?”
That’s it for today. If you have any questions or comments, please tell me!
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  1. Anonymous
    On March 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm Reply

    Hi.. Ryan..

    Can i say? My sister borrowed it from the library… or… I gave a loan to my best friend..


  2. Sitzman
    On March 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm Reply

    Hi Anastasio,

    Yes, you could say both of those things.

    The first one would likely be referring to a book (“it”) since the sentence mentions a library, and the second one would probably be referring to money, since you say “A loan,” making loan into a noun.

    If you let your best friend borrow an object, for example your hammer, then you could say:

    “I loaned a hammer to my best friend.”
    “My best friend borrowed my hammer.”
    Or something similar to those.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for your comment!


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