Loan, Lend And Borrow Are Confusing English Verbs

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Loan, lend and borrow are confusing English verbs. I teach you the difference between these words and how to use them properly in everyday spoken English. Practice the example sentences I share and come up with your own sentences using these three tricky English verbs!

Loan, lend and borrow are confusing English verbs. I will teach you the difference between these words and how to use them properly in everyday spoken English. Practice the example sentences I share and come up with your own sentences using these three tricky English verbs!



Let’s start with LOAN. Loan is a noun and a verb. As a noun it typically refers to someone giving someone something temporarily. So for example, someone might take out a loan of $1,000 for a graphic design course. For instance, Jessica took out a loan for her graphic design course. She’ll repay the loan when she has the money. Or she’ll pay off her loan once she gets her first graphic design job. But it doesn’t always have to be money. When we go to the library, we take out books for free. The book is on loan from the library. The library loans books to us. So loan is also a verb as you can see. We can say the book is on loan and that’s the noun version. But we can also also the library loans books to people who have a library card. But if we loan it, we’ve got to return it once we’ve finished reading it because we don’t own the book the library owns it.


What about LEND? This means you give someone something for a certain amount of time, with the expectation that they’ll return it to you. So when you lend something to someone, the person is borrowing it from you. For example: You might say to your friend: Can you lend me your car? I just need to borrow it for 3 hours. Mine’s in the shop till Thursday and I need to pick up some groceries this afternoon.  Using the example of the library, when you have a library card the library will lend you books usually for 3 weeks and then you return them. I love listening to audiobooks and the app I use, Libby, lends me digital books and audiobooks for up to 21 days. So I borrow these books from the library and return them once I’ve finished them or at the end of three weeks. We lend someone something as in: Matt lent Jules his very fancy tuxedo for the Gala. Jennifer lent Gerry her tennis racquet for the weekend. We can also lend something to someone: Roberto lent his tent to us for the weekend. We’re borrowing it for our camping trip. Or Harriet lent us this pan so we can make some breakfast this morning.  


And lastly we have BORROW. So borrow is to use something that belongs to another person and promise to return it to them later on. You can borrow something from someone or something. Can I borrow your computer? I borrowed Lindsey’s computer. Jill borrowed a computer from her school. When you borrow books from a library, you agree to return them when the due date is up. I love borrowing books from the library.

Now let’s put all this together. Let’s say the same thing but use these three different verbs to really make sure we got the concept. Ready?

I am taking these books on loan.
The library is lending me books.
I am borrowing these books from the library.
The library is loaning me these books.

I am using your car on loan.
You’re lending me your car this weekend.
I am borrowing your car this weekend.
You’re loaning me your car for the weekend.

Sam is borrowing your calculator.
You’re loaning Sam your calculator.
You are lending Sam your calculator.
You’re using Sam’s calculator on loan.

Awesome! Much clearer now I hope :) Ok and since you’re super advanced let’s do a short quiz.

I left my phone at home but I need to make a quick call. This is the premise for the next 5 utterances.

Can you _____ me your phone?

Can you LEND me your phone?

Can I ______ your phone? Can I BORROW your phone?

You can take out a _____ to buy a new phone.

You can take out a LOAN to buy a new phone.

The book I wanted was out on ______ (loan). 

I _____ (borrowed)  three books from the library. 

Thanks for _______ (lending) me this amazing book.


Well done! Those are the three confusing words in English that can get mixed up from time to time but hopefully they’re a lot clearer to you now! The more you practice using these words the easier it will become for you to distinguish between them. What makes them challenging is that you can use these three words to say the same thing, but the word order changes as well as the agent.


Alright Advanced English learners, thanks for joining me in this lesson.

I encourage you to come up with your own sentences using uncountable nouns and feel free to share that with the community in the comments down below!

The full transcript of this lesson can be found on our blog, so be sure to check out advanced english dot co forward slash blog. If you prefer to listen to this lesson, check out our podcast; it's available on our website. And if you love the podcast, be sure to leave us a 5 star review, that really helps us out!

See you in the next one where we’ll continue advancing your English together! Until then, keep up the awesome work.