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Commonly Confused Words: Bought vs. Brought


What does each word mean?

Bought is the past and past participle of buy. Click here to see the full Spellzone dictionary entry for the word buy

Here is the word bought used in some example sentences:

  • His train ticket was very expensive because he bought it at the last minute.
  • I lied to my mum about my exam results, but don’t worry – she bought every word.

Cick here for the Spellzone word lists containing the word bought.

Brought is the past and past participle of bring. Click here to see the full Spellzone dictionary entry for the word bring.

Here is the word brought used in some example sentences:

  • She brought some wine to the party.
  • He brought the water to boil before adding the pasta to the saucepan.
  • The rain brought relief after months of drought.

Cick here for the Spellzone word lists containing the word brought.

Where does each word come from?

The word buy, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, comes from the Old English ‘bycgan’ which means ‘to buy, pay for, acquire; redeem, ransom; procure; get done,’ and in turn is from the Proto-Germanic ‘bugjanan’. The past tense of ‘bycgan’ is ‘bohte’, which looks and sounds similar to bought.

Bring comes from the Old English ‘bringan’ which means ‘to bring, bring forth, produce, present, offer’, and is from the Proto-Germanic ‘brenganan’. The past tense of ‘bringan’ is ‘brohte’, and the past participle ‘broht’, which both look and sound similar to brought.

Have you noticed how both words are derived from the same origin language? The Old English ‘bohte’ and ‘brohte’ are just as similar to each other as their modern descendants bought and brought are to one another.

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

One way to make sure you are using the right word is to try out your sentence in the present tense and then work out whether you need bought or brought. It may be helpful to remember that bring and its past tense brought both share the letter ‘r’.

Let’s try with some example sentences:

  • I bought/brought my boyfriend to my cousin’s wedding.

Now let’s try the sentence in two present tense versions:

1) I buy my boyfriend to my cousin’s wedding.
2) I bring my boyfriend to my cousin’s wedding.

As you can see, the first sentence doesn’t make sense, but the second one does. Bring has the letter ‘r’ in it, so you know you need to use brought in your sentence and not bought:

  • I brought my boyfriend to my cousin’s wedding.
  • I bought/brought a new pair of shoes with my birthday money.

Let’s try the sentence in two present tense versions:

1) I buy a new pair of shoes with my birthday money.
2) I bring a new pair of shoes with my birthday money.

This time it’s the first sentence that makes sense. As buy doesn’t have the letter ‘r’ in it, you know that this time you need to use bought instead of brought.

  • I bought a new pair of shoes with my birthday money.

Avani Shah


21 Jan 2014
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