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 means to take something from someone, with permission and with the intention of giving it back. The past tense and past participle is borrowed.
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.
Lend can also be used figuratively, to mean to contribute, impart, or offer:
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.
Loan is also a noun, which indicates whatever object was loaned.
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