Can I use lend to mean something helps something? For example:

Learning other languages lends to understanding your native one.


We normally expect the "indirect object" of lend (literal or figurative) to be a noun, not an infinitive-based clause. So in theory, OP's example could be "corrected" to...

1: Learning other languages lends [you, one] an understanding of your native one.

I can't say exactly why that one doesn't work for me, whereas...

2: Learning other languages lends [you] an air of sophistication.

...seems perfectly okay. Note that the figurative usage (and indeed the literal sense) normally involves something being temporarily "reassigned". But in constructions like those above, lends would more accurately be understood as equivalent to confers upon.

It may be that the only reason I don't like #1 (whereas I'm quite happy with #2), is because the figurative usage isn't all that common in general. But the specific collocation lends an air of [authority, authenticity, whatever] is actually quite common - it's something of a "set phrase".

OR it's possible the reason an air / appearance [of some quality] is particularly likely to be "lent" is because appearing to have that quality isn't really the same as actually having it (you only seem to have it because of something about your context that temporarily gives that impression). In which context it's worth noting that...

3: His deep voice lends authority to his words

...could be seen as temporarily making the words seem [more] authoritative, in that the implication is they wouldn't be so "authoritative" if spoken by someone else with a reedier voice.


You can use lend in the sense you want, but the sentence needs to be rephrased.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of lend:

2 b : to adapt or apply (oneself) readily : ACCOMMODATE
// a topic that lends itself admirably to class discussion

So, in terms of your sentence, it should be rephrased to something like this:

? Learning other languages lends to understanding your native one.

→ ✔ The learning of other languages lends itself to understanding your native one.

  • Yes, with itself, for sure. – Lambie Jun 29 at 19:44

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