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Commonly Confused Words: Borrow vs. Lend


Although this week’s words mean opposite things, they are often confused.

What does each word mean?

  • If you borrow something it means you take and use something that belongs to someone else with the intention of returning it.

    Here is borrow used in some example sentences:

    • She borrowed a book from the library.
    • He borrowed money to pay for his university education.
    • My daughter is borrowing my car for the afternoon.
    • Et cetera’ is an expression borrowed from Latin.

Click here for all the Spellzone word lists featuring borrow.

  • If you lend something it means you allow someone to take and use something that belongs you on the understanding that they will return it.

    Here is lend used in some example sentences:

    • Libraries lend books out to the general public.
    • The government lent him money to pay for his university education.
    • I lent my daughter my car for the afternoon.
    • His arched eyebrows lent his face the illusion of authority.

Click here for all the Spellzone word lists featuring lend.

Where does each word come from?

  • Borrow comes from the Old English ‘borgian’ meaning ‘to lend’, which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘borg’ meaning ‘pledge’.

  • Lend also comes from Old English. It derives from ‘lænan’ meaning ‘to lend’, from ‘læn’ meaning ‘loan

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • A synonym for lend is loan – both words begin with the letter L.

  • “Whatever you borrow, you must return tomorrow.” Use this rhyme to remember that borrow refers to ‘taking’ rather than ‘giving’.

  • “You lend to a friend.” Use this rhyme to remember that lendrefers to ‘giving’ rather than ‘taking’.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?


08 Dec 2015
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