39

Can we use borrow as I have in the above sentence in a sense like;

He borrowed (from someone for) me some money.

I wonder if there was a better way of expressing the idea that I am meant to.

Clarification: borrow there is not mistakenly used instead of lend.

10 Answers 10

53

Yes, in the proper context, that is grammatical. It would mean that he borrowed money on your behalf. It is colloquial, not formal. The use of such 'ethical dative' constructions is regional.

I have to thank John for helping me get this business started. He borrowed me a sizable chunk of change from his venture-capitalist buddies.

P.S. I think from some of the comments below that a few visitors to the site are concerned that I've given you a bum steer, some bad advice. You're not using the word borrow as some uneducated speakers do who use it in a non-standard manner, as if it meant "lend". An example from Nelson Algren's novel The Man with the Golden Arm:

Frankie dealt ... skipping Sparrow, who professed to be too broke to play...
"Borrow me a dirty sawbuck, I wanna play too," he asked the players on either side of him, twice each.
Each time each answered, looking straight ahead at the dealer's eyeshade, "Never play against my own money."
"Then borrow me a dirty deuce."
Sparrow was always careful to identify any money he was able to borrow as dirty, suspecting that he thus reduced the obligation slightly.

Don't use it that way, or people will think you flunked out of school.

Neither a borrower nor a borrower be.
--Polonius

  • 98
    I think it is worth pointing out that saying "He borrowed me some money" when the person means "He loaned me some money" is quite a common but bad error. I would steer clear of saying "he borrowed me some money" in favour of "he borrowed some money for me" to avoid people assuming I meant borrowed and have poor grammar. – Eric Nolan Jan 29 at 11:32
  • 10
    Tᴚoɯɐuo - I think you're wrong, although that is commonly said. Should be "He borrowed a sizeable chunk of change for me". @Eric - that's really common in Manchester (UK) - "can you do us a borrow?" – Justin Jan 29 at 11:45
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    @Justin: It's really no different than He found me a private detective. It's a dative construction. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 29 at 12:29
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    I am surprised to see a native speaker endorse this usage! To me (UK) it sounds like a foreigner's solecism. – TonyK Jan 29 at 16:56
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    I think the point of many of these comments is that while it may be technically grammatical and could be understood, it's not idiomatic because it sounds more like an error than the literal meaning. – Barmar Jan 29 at 17:47
119

You could, in theory, however it would only cause confusion in my opinion. For the sake of clarity, I would go with "he borrowed some money for me."

  • 26
    +1 It may be worth emphasising that the potential confusion ("Did they actually mean 'lent'") is exacerbated by OP being a non-native speaker - even though OPs construction is perfectly correct. – Bilkokuya Jan 29 at 15:56
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    I'd agree with @Bilkokuya. As a native speaker, if someone said the phrase to me I would have assumed they meant "he lent me some money." – Dan Jan 30 at 15:26
15

Wiktionary says:

  1. (double transitive) To temporarily obtain (something) for (someone).

Quotations

1681 “Trial of Sir Miles Stapleton”, in State Trials, 33 Charles II, page 516: Yes, my lord, he told me this in my own house; and I told him he might go to esquire Tindal, and I lent him eighteen pence, and borrowed him a horse in the town.

1866 April 20, Charles W. G. Howard, “Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Select Committee”, in parliamentary debates, House of Commons, page 84, columns {{{columns}}}: I went out and borrowed him a night cap; put him my night shirt on, and wrapped him in a blanket.

1999 August 1, “Ronnie Dawson, Singer, Comments on his Career and Music”, in NPR_Weekend: My folks couldn't afford a guitar, so my dad borrowed me a mandolin one time, and I was just learning to play it pretty good and the guy that he borrowed it from wanted it back.

2006, Laurie Graham, Gone with the Windsors, page 116: George Lightfoot seemed to have forgotten he was meant to be a Lost Sheep, and turned up as the Tin Man, but I forgave him, because he'd managed to borrow me a divine brass crazier from one of his bishop friends.

Still doesn't quite feel natural to me, but I'm not a native English speaker. Many people will probably have to think twice to understand who is borrowing what from whom for whom else. You're probably better off being more explicit:

He borrowed some money for me from ...

  • 3
    Good use of citation/example. It's a grammatically correct construction, but an uncommon one - it sounds awkward/unnatural to me. – V2Blast Jan 30 at 7:57
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    @Mari-LouA: No, "my dad borrowed me" clearly means "my dad borrowed [a mandolin] [from someone] for me" - read the rest of the sentence ("the guy he borrowed it from") plus consider that a mandolin is not going to be massively cheaper than the guitar that the parents couldn't afford :) – psmears Feb 1 at 11:47
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    @Mari-LouA that's the whole meaning of "borrowing something from X for Y"! – jcaron Feb 1 at 12:44
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    @Mari-LouA Note that I'm not saying the expression is not confusing (that's exactly what I wrote at the end of my answer). But the usage of "borrow someone something" in the sense "borrow something for someone [from someone else, who isn't stated]" does exist, and all 4 examples clearly use that sense. – jcaron Feb 1 at 12:49
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    @Mari-LouA: You're entitled to your opinion, but I don't believe it's supported by the evidence. For instance, in the first example, the speaker uses "lend" (indicating that they are aware of the correct usage of that verb), and contrasts it with "borrow"; I'm not clear why we should assume that "lend" is meant in both cases there. Note that this sort of use ("<verb> me a <noun>" for "<verb> a <noun> for me") works with any verb of obtaining ("[get/find/steal/grow/magic] me a radish"), so I'm not sure why it wouldn't work with "borrow" - other than that it reminds one of the incorrect use? – psmears Feb 1 at 13:42
7

The shortest way (I can come up with) for saying someone who has borrowed money from another person or entity in order to lend it to a third party would be the following

  1. He borrowed money to give me

The OP's sentence is, from a purely technical viewpoint, ungrammatical. Many native speakers would criticise (an English language teacher would mark it as being incorrect) and say that the past participle of the verb lend, i.e. lent should be used instead.

  1. He lent me some money

The OP's suggestion, WITHOUT context, sounds ambiguous to me. Maybe nowadays it sounds perfectly acceptable in the US and in the UK, and speakers would not be confused, I simply don't know anymore. As I get older I see that life's little certainties diminish little by little.

  1. He borrowed me some money

Did the subject, "he", borrow money from the speaker? OR Did "he" lend money to the speaker?

Adding the parenthesis (from someone for) is wordy, confusing and plain bad style, in my humble opinion.

P.S. if the parenthesis was added for the sake of clarity it should go after the sentence, not in the middle.

  • 5
    I added those parenthesis merely to convey the context ^^ – Zeeshan Ali Jan 29 at 10:25
  • @Mari-LouA I think it's worse than that! IMHO, there is a 3rd alternative. In addition to the two meanings you've mentioned (I borrowed from B, or B borrowed from me), it might also mean "B borrowed from C on my behalf ". Whether it is grammatical is beside the point: as stated, it is incomprehensible, since it might fairly bear any of at least three possible meanings. Correction: it has at least four possible meanings: see Algy Taylor's separate answer for the 4th. – Ed999 Jan 31 at 5:27
  • @Ed999 Go and tell that to the OP, Mark (whose first upvote was from me BTW) and TRomano. For me, the original sentence can be interpreted in one of two ways. – Mari-Lou A Jan 31 at 7:15
  • The number of downvotes overall might have increased if SE had given users with the site association bonus (100 rep) also the "privilege" of downvoting (125 rep is required) or maybe not. The HNQ voting is crazy enough as it is. – Mari-Lou A Jan 31 at 7:40
  • You did ask for an opinion from the UK! As I'm in England, I'm pointing out that (whatever the situation may be in the USA) in the UK, at least, the phrase can be understood to mean any of four different things. The sentence is at least meaningless here, therefore, even though I'm uncertain which of the (wholly artificial) rules of grammar is being violated: it is outside my (long) experience to come across a sentence with so many differing meanings! – Ed999 Jan 31 at 17:28
4

I think it's gramatically OK, but I'd avoid using it.

I've heard it used colloquially (Black Country, UK), but it had/has a slightly different meaning to the one I think you mean. In that "He borrowed me some money" would mean the same as "He lent me some money" or "I borrowed some money from him". Likewise "borrow me some money?" can be used to mean "Can I borrow some money?".

That use isn't widespread [from my experience], and definitely informal. I'm not sure it's used outside that area ... but it does exist, so I'd avoid using it because it could be interpreted as that (not knowing the right word, so using a similar word in place ... or intentionally using the 'wrong' word)

0

He borrowed me a sizable chunk of change from his venture-capitalist buddies.

Has a clearer meaning than this terse example.

He borrowed me money

The sentence above is just plain confusing.

(Normally) We borrow something from someone

  • I borrowed Dad's car.
  • I borrowed the car from Dad.

The giver either lends something to someone or lends someone something

  • Dad lent the car to me
  • Dad lent me the car

The OP supplied the context in their parenthetical phrase, (from someone for) because they were forced to, otherwise everyone would be telling the OP the verb "borrow" is being used incorrectly. The fact that borrow meaning lend can be used regionally or in many dialectics does not remove the sentence's ambiguity UNLESS context is supplied.

Cambridge Dictionary says

Lend means ‘give something to someone for a short time, expecting that you will get it back’. The past simple and the -ed form are lent:

   I never lend my CDs to anyone.

   I lent Gary £30. (I expect that Gary will return this to me)

Borrow is a regular verb meaning ‘get something from someone, intending to give it back after a short time’:

   Could I borrow your pen for a minute, please?

   Laura used to borrow money from me all the time.

Typical error

When you give something, you lend it; when you get or receive something, you borrow it:

  Can I borrow your dictionary?

  Not: Can I lend your dictionary?

  • Your example explains how the money transferred from the source to the friend (he borrowed it), but does not specify how the money gets from his friend to himself. Did the friend give it to him as a gift? Did the friend lend him the money, or something else? Assuming the friend borrowed on his behalf is one thing, but there's a level of ambiguity in your example that can't be assumed because there is only one logical interpretation. Therefore, I disagree that your example is valid. – Physics-Compute Feb 1 at 19:10
  • @Physics-Compute the example is taken from TRomano's answer. Talk to him, if you want. I am done here. It's now become boring. – Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 21:05
0

If you substitute other words such as: "he found me some water", then your example appears to be correct.

A semantic point: IMHO I don't think you can borrow money for someone else. The person could borrow money, then give it to you or lend it to you, but they will always be the one receiving the original loan.

I think using a phrase like, "He borrowed some money on my behalf" makes the intention much more clear.

  • I can certainly bake a cake for somebody else, or buy a car for somebody else. So why can't I borrow money for them? – David Richerby Jan 31 at 19:47
  • @DavidRicherby: Because acting as an agent does not change who the borrower is. If X arranges a loan from Y to Z, the borrower is Z. X is not the borrower, and cannot say "I borrowed (Z money from Y)". – Ben Voigt Feb 1 at 21:21
  • @BenVoigt If I bake a cake and give it to you, I have baked a cake for you. If I buy a car and give it to you, I have bought a car for you. If I borrow money and give it to you, I have _____________________. – David Richerby Feb 1 at 22:03
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    @DavidRicherby: What about "I paid X's taxes"? Does it mean that I used my personal funds to benefit X, or that I, acting as corporate agent for X, used X's funds? There's an ambiguity here, these phrases do not imply "and gave it to (beneficiary)". – Ben Voigt Feb 1 at 22:26
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    @DavidRicherby: Actually, we're talking about "borrowing somebody money". In that context it's not really possible that "somebody" is the borrower, with the speaker acting as agent, because then the speaker can't say "I borrowed". So it has to be a case where "somebody" is the beneficiary, with the speaker acting as borrower. And then as RrB answered, the role "somebody" plays depends critically on how the speaker passed the money along -- as a gift or as a loan. Even in the elaborated sentence given as an example in the top answer, I can't pin down which of the three cases is meant. – Ben Voigt Feb 1 at 22:38
0

Simplest way to clarify: He borrowed for me some money.

-1

You should avoid making that kind of statement because it can be incorrect.

Borrow technically means receiving.

Lend on the other hand means giving.

The grammatically correct way to say that would be

He lent me some money.

-5

Technically, the dative

He borrowed me some money.

does mean

He lent me some money.

It's just money borrowed from someone else.

To answer the OP's question, it's grammatically right, but (probably) semantically wrong.

  • 2
    Unfortunately, it does not mean that. Reason: you have "lent to" but not "borrowed to." Therefore, "borrowed me" falls through to the backup meaning of "borrowed on my behalf," whereas "lent me" does not fall through. – thb Feb 1 at 16:53
  • I think everyone who downvoted missed my point. I borrowed you a book from the library means that i borrowed the book from the library and lent it to you. – iamanigeeit Feb 8 at 8:30

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