Welcome to another Troublesome Pair – I wonder if I can keep these going indefinitely. I’m almost sure I am – but I do appreciate when people take the time to suggest pairs for me to write about, so do drop me a line and let me know about any you need explaining, or any you see around you and think need explaining to people in general.
Apparently these two, lend and borrow, do get mixed up often. I can’t say I’ve seen it that much, but the person who suggested it isn’t the only one to have confirmed they’ve noticed it.
It should be quite simple. When you lend something, you are allowing someone to use it, on the understanding that it will be returned will be returned. So Max lends Jim some money that Max has, and Jim needs. The library lends out books.
To borrow, on the other hand, is to be on the other side of the bargain and to be the recipient of the loaned item. Jim is borrowing Max’s money, and you borrow books from the library. You borrow money from a mortgage lender, for example.
The slight problem with lend is that it does tend to get used in the “wrong” way in colloquial speech and regional dialects, which means it’s floating around more, gets heard more, and the hearers can become inclined to think it’s the correct usage. We’ve probably all heard “can I have a lend of your pen?” and, while the use might be regional and the sense can be perceived, it would be best if people whose regional dialect it is not part of, especially people learning and speaking English as a second or additional language, refrain from using it like this.
So – I have a book. You don’t have a book. I lend you my book. You borrow it. Now you have the book – but you will be giving it back (otherwise I’ve given it to you).