Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Can you borrow me a brain?

The grammar police are here to arrest you. Your offense? Using “borrow,” “lend” and “loan” interchangeably. Urbandictionary.com describes this as a “common misconception in some areas of the United States,” but I believe it to be a more widespread phenomenon. You have been sentenced to community service – ensuring that you and those around you understand the proper usage of these words.

“Borrow” means to take something from someone with their permission, with intent to return it. “Lend” means to give something to someone who will return it. In America, the word “loan” is used as a synonym for lend but not in the figurative sense.

Example: The yellow walls lend the kitchen warmth.
NOT The yellow walls loan the kitchen warmth.

If you are still struggling with this, try substituting “take” for “borrow” and “give” for “lend” or “loan.” You will soon learn the error of your ways.

Example: Give me a pen. OR Loan me a pen. OR Lend me a pen.
NOT Take me a pen. OR Borrow me a pen.

Class dismissed. To test your skills, try taking this quiz.


  1. Hello, fellow grammar police woman. But, on a more cynical (perhaps not?) note: the world is changing everyday and you can't stop it. Personally, I like to say, "I'll borrow you a pen." It's wrong; it sounds right. It's a twist on the actual meaning of the word. Perfect innovation!

    Your other example, "the walls loan the kitchen warmth:" this one would bother me. Because this one does not SOUND correct. Subtle disctinction and perhaps nonsensical, but how I consider it.

    Lanuguage is intuitive. I don't mind if it changes, so long as it always sounds right to the ears.

    Perhaps I am not making sense? I often don't.

    ps guess who?

  2. hehe...I know I'm a little old-fashioned with my grammar. This one just irks me!


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