Borrow, Lend, Loan

What’s the difference between borrow, lend, and loan? Two of them are synonyms and the third is the opposite – lend me your eyes and I’ll tell you about them.

Borrow

Borrow means to take something from someone, with permission and with the intention of giving it back. The past tense and past participle is borrowed.

Can I borrow the car?

You can borrow a pen from him.

I need to borrow some money.

What happened to the books I borrowed from the library?

 
Lend

Lend is just the opposite – it means to give something to someone, with the expectation that s/he will return it. The past tense and past participle is lent.

Yes, I’ll lend you the car.

He’ll be happy to lend you a pen.

I can’t afford to lend you any money.

The library lent me those books three weeks ago.

Lend can also be used figuratively, to mean to contribute, impart, or offer:

Lend me a hand (Help me).

The yellow wall will lend a feeling of warmth.

Your story lends itself to numerous interpretations.

 
Loan

Loan is a synonym for lend, used by Americans, but only for the concrete meaning (the opposite of “borrow”), not the figurative one. The past tense and past participle is loaned.

Yes, I’ll loan you the car.

He’ll be happy to loan you a pen.

I can’t afford to loan you any money.

The library loaned me those books three weeks ago.

Loan is also a noun, which indicates whatever object was loaned.

I’ll have to get a loan to buy this house.

The loan of my car was on condition that you fill it with gas.

 
The Bottom Line

Borrow means "to take," while lend and loan mean "to give." If you continue to have trouble with this, try substituting "take" for borrow and "give" for lend or loan – the correct word will immediately be clear.

You can only borrow something from someone: "Loan (or lend) me a pen" is correct, "Borrow me a pen" is not. (Just as "give me a pen" is right, but "take me a pen" isn’t.)

 
More English Difficulties

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