I really don’t understand how some students, on their first day at the language school where I teach (Institute of English Language Studies), arrive without a pen or pencil. It is a school, they need to do a placement test and then go to class for lessons. Within a few minutes of arriving, they are asking staff or other students for a pen they could use. To their credit they try doing so in English, usually by saying, “Can you borrow me a pen?” This mistake I can forgive because the meaning is still clear and anyway, it’s a Monday.

The correct ways of asking are:

  1. Can I BORROW a pen?
  2. Can you LEND me a pen?

As you can see, we have two words for a similar action: lend and borrow. When the thing (in sentence 1, the pen) moves towards the person doing the action (in sentence 1, I), use borrow. However, when the thing (in sentence 2, the pen) moves away from the person doing the action (in sentence 2, you), use lend.

Now that you know the rule, you should be able to spot the mistake in the Facebook quote which I put at the top of this post. Since the iPad moves away from the people doing the action (we), the right way of saying it is: We have a restaurant which lends you an iPad …

If you don’t use it, you lose it – so write in using the form below!

What is the most expensive thing you’ve lent or borrowed? Who did you lend it to or borrow it from?


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