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Write the Right Word: Lend vs. Borrow

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be," Polonius admonishes his son in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet."

Shakespeare more than likely didn’t intend to have Polonius’ advice be a lesson in word usage. However, this phrase clearly indicates that "borrow" and "lend" are two different actions. In other words, they aren’t interchangeable, despite the way they’re often used.

"Lend" is a verb that means to give something for temporary use with the understanding that the item will be returned. It also can mean to provide assistance or support, or to adapt or apply readily.

"Borrow," while also a verb, means to receive something with the implied or express intention of returning it. It also can mean to appropriate something for your own use.

Here are some examples of the correct way to use these two words:

"Please lend me enough money to buy the book."

"He agreed to lend his name to the project."

"Politics is a topic that lends itself well to the debate format."

"I am borrowing my father’s car."

"His speech was filled with phrases he borrowed from JFK."

Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu

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