When I was in trouble he borrowed me money.
When I was in trouble he lent me money.

What is the difference between them? Which one is correct?

  • 7
    Stick with the latter and avoid the former.
    – J.R.
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:42
  • @J.R. Ah, but why? Sep 4, 2015 at 13:08
  • "borrow, lend" in the search field gives 9 results. And research in online dictionaries should make the difference between the two verbs clear.
    – rogermue
    Sep 4, 2015 at 16:44
  • speaking usage is usually loaned not lent maybe not grammatically correct but what you hear more often
    – user5699
    Sep 5, 2015 at 2:19
  • 2
    One thing to beware of is that even native English speakers often use "borrow" to mean "lend" but only in informal, colloquial speech (experienced in Minnesota, US; Wales, Surrey and Yorkshire, UK). Personally it grates on me, but I anticipate this usage becoming accepted over time, with language creep. Sep 5, 2015 at 2:37

4 Answers 4



These two verbs lend and borrow often cause confusion for learners. The main reason is that many languages use just one verb for both of these meanings

The verb lend is like the verb give. It means to give temporarily, not permanently.

The verb borrow is more like the verb take. If you borrow something you are taking it, but temporarily, not permanently.


The verb lend has the same grammar as the verb give. It takes an Indirect Object (the person your giving the thing to) and a Direct Object (the thing that you are giving):

  • He gave me a pen.
  • He lent me a pen.

The verb borrow has the same grammar as the verb take. It normally takes a Direct Object (the thing being taken) and it sometimes also takes a preposition phrase headed by the preposition from:

  • I took a pen from him.
  • I borrowed a pen from him.

The Original Poster's question

  1. *When I was in trouble he borrowed me money. (ungrammatical)

  2. When I was in trouble he lent me money.

Sentence (1) is incorrect for two reasons. Firstly the subject of the sentence he is giving the money, not taking it. Therefore we need the verb lend not the verb borrow.

Secondly the grammar in sentence (1) is problematic. The verb borrow cannot take an Indirect Object. We can't say "borrow me" in standard English.

Sentence (2) is, of course, perfectly fine. The poster could make a similar sentence with the word borrow, but this would need a different Subject:

When I was in trouble I borrowed money from him.

However, this sentence has a completely different feeling to it.


  1. This is the first installment of a post. The second installment will be much more complicated and will show how He borrowed me some money could be correct but not if me is a normal Object.

  2. It might be worth noting that in some regional varieties of English we can use the verb borrow with the same grammar and meaning as lend, but this does not happen in standard Englishes like Southern Standard British English or General American.]

  • 2
    You could be a slave talking to someone nicknamed money :)
    – Ángel
    Sep 4, 2015 at 23:10
  • 2
    In non-standard English, "he borrowed me money" might also be possible with "me" as a possessive pronoun :) But that's pragmatically unlikely in the context of "when I was in trouble."
    – sumelic
    Sep 5, 2015 at 10:03
  • @sumelic Quite right! Sep 7, 2015 at 9:23
  • If you're rewriting, will you address whether "he borrowed me money" could be read as "he borrowed money (from others) on my behalf" or "he borrowed money that he then lent to me"? Sep 9, 2015 at 19:17

Although the above answers give lots of details, I prefer the below explanation...

Lend is equivalent to Throw, or Give

You lend money to someone. (Past tense: loaned or sometimes lent)


Borrow is equivalent to Catch, or Receive

You borrow something from them. (Past tense: borrowed)

Note that you can borrow something for someone, but not to them. Like I could catch a ball for you (when a third person throws it), but I could not catch it to you.

  • +1 I really love your throw and catch mnemonic. I've been using give and take for years but it doesn't distinguish the two actions clearly enough (obviously if you speak English the difference is clear, but .... so what?). Another I've used is beggars borrow but that's rubbish for a thousand reasons. Thanks. Every bone of my teaching intuition tells me that throw and catch will be more successful for students. That is if they can remember which is which. Maybe they won't be able to, but it's worth a shot! Sep 4, 2015 at 22:36
  • 1
    At least if they know that's the distinction, they won't confuse the two, even if they get the wrong one :)
    – Jon Story
    Sep 4, 2015 at 22:37

They mean different! In second, he gives you money directly. In the first sentence, he does it for you. While the latter is pretty clear, the former is tricky. Let me explain the first.

"He bought me a doll" - he does the action of 'buying'. And 'you' are the one who's receiving. "He borrowed me money" - he does the action of 'borrowing' money (but here from someone), and again, you are the receiver.

He buys a doll. He buys it for me = He bought me a doll
He borrows some money. He borrows it for me = He borrowed me some money

Think of A, B, and C.

If B asks C for a calculator for A, the B actually borrows the gadget for A from C.

A: I want to borrow a calculator from C but I'm feeling shy
B: No worries, I do that for you.

B: Hey C, will you give me your calculator for A as he's feeling shy?
C: Ah, why not. Here it is!

Here, B borrowed A the calculator. Said that, A can say "When I needed it, B borrowed me a calculator"

I found a result from COCA similar to what I said in my comment -

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.

'you' are an indirect object receiving something in both of your sentences.


Which one correct - IMO, both. Do they mean the same - No, they don't.

  • 5
    Someone doesn't borrow something to someone, but from someone, as in "I borrowed her calculator." (from 10 Common Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make. In other words, you can borrow his money, but, object or no object, he can't borrow you money – not without being grammatically incorrect.
    – J.R.
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:40
  • Want to understand this further... will do my homework. Deleting as of now. @J.R.
    – Maulik V
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:53
  • @J.R. added. I think it's possible.
    – Maulik V
    Sep 4, 2015 at 10:17
  • 1
    I pointed out some issues with your example because you used it to back your claim. You assert that the usage is correct. (Let's be clear without having to use a vague term such as possible; you wrote "the meaning is the same" anyway.) This is not the first time you make this kind of assertion. It's easy for everyone nowadays to search things here and there and then claim something. But does that make it correct? -- Also, this is not about me being happy, but I hope to see high rep users such as you and me and others would be more careful with our answers. Sep 4, 2015 at 11:57
  • 1
    @DamkerngT. The problem is old bean that the sentence could be completely grammatical., couldn't it? For example, "If you go to the library could you borrow me a book please?". Or "If you haven't got any money I could borrow you some from the bank". Sep 4, 2015 at 15:15

The direct object for 'borrow' and 'lend' should be an object/material thing. You cannot use it in the first sentence, unless you change 'me' to 'my', but that will make the sense of the sentence wrong.

Also, when it comes to money/financially related terms, 'lend' is the proper verb to use. Borrow is usually used for other objects/material things.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .