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What’s the difference between borrow and lend?

Borrow and lend have similar meanings but we use them differently.

When choosing the correct verb, we have to decide if the subject of the sentence is giving or receiving something.

If the subject is taking or receiving, we use borrow; if the subject is giving, we use lend.

Both verbs express a temporary state; the object in question will be returned at some point.

Read on to let Lingolia teach you to use borrow and lend correctly, then test yourself in the free interactive exercises.


David and Lily love books! Lily borrows books from the library every week.

David is planning to open a bookshop and the bank has just lent him money.

When the bookshop opens Elsa will lend David a helping hand.


  • take something that doesn’t belong to you to use for a period of time and then return it
Lily borrows books from the library.
The subject (Lily) is taking/receiving books from the library.
  • take money from a person or bank and agree to pay it back, often plus interest in the case of the bank
David borrowed money from the bank in order to open his book shop.
  • to take words from another language, or ideas from another person
English borrows many words from French.


  • give somebody something to use for a period and then return
The library lends books to people.
The subject (the library) is giving books to people.
  • give money to somebody who agrees to pay it back
The bank lent David money to open his book shop.
  • offer help or support
When the bookshop opens, Elsa and Lily will lend David a helping hand.

Borrowing and Lending Money

Borrow and lend usually take a direct object. That means we borrow/lend something. But when we talk about money, we can use these verbs without a direct object. In this case, it is clear that we are talking about money.

David didn’t want to borrow from a bank.
He wanted to borrow from his parents, who would never charge interest.
Unfortunately, his parents couldn’t lend him any money.