'Brought' or 'Bought': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 7, 2023

Wondering whether to use ‘brought’ or ‘bought’? We can help clear up the usage of each word, plus teach you how to use both in a sentence correctly.

The short answer is that ‘brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring,’ meaning ‘to carry someone or something to a place or person.’ ‘Bought’ is the past tense of the word ‘buy,’ meaning ‘to obtain something by paying money for it.’ Therefore, the words should never be used interchangeably.

‘Brought’ and ‘Bought’ – Learn the Difference Quickly

As you just learned, the difference between ‘brought’ and ‘bought’ is that the former is the past tense of ‘bring,’ and the latter is the past tense of ‘buy.’

‘Brought’ vs. ‘Bought’ – Difference and Examples

We learned the difference between the two words in the last section. Let’s see some examples of that.

  • I brought your tennis racket for your match after school.
  • I bought you a burger from Shake Shack.

You’ll see more examples of how to use both words in a sentence in a later section.

To help you remember, ‘brought’ begins with the same first two letters as ‘bring.’ If you can remember that, you should have no problem remembering that ‘bought’ is related to ‘buy.’ They both contain the letters ‘b’ and ‘u.’

Definition and Meaning of ‘Brought’

Since we know ‘brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring,’ let’s define ‘bring.’

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word ‘brought’ is: “to convey, lead, carry, or cause to come along with one toward the place from which the action is being regarded,” “to cause to be, act, or move in a special way: such as 1) attract, 2) persuade, induce, 3) force, compel, 4) to cause to come into a particular state or condition,” “escort, accompany,” and “to bear as an attribute or characteristic.”

It also means: “to cause to exist or occur: such as a) to be the occasion of, b) to result in, c) institute, d) adduce,” “prefer,” and “to procure in exchange: sell for.”

Definition and Meaning of ‘Bought’

We also know that ‘bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy,’ so let’s define ‘buy.’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘buy’ is: “to acquire possession, ownership, or rights to the use or services of by payment, especially of money: purchase,” “to obtain in exchange for something often at a sacrifice,” “Christianity: redeem,” “bribe, hire,” “to be the purchasing equivalent of,” and “accept, believe.”

The noun version means: “something of value at a favorable price, especially: bargain” and “an act of acquiring possession, ownership, or rights to the use or services of something by payment especially of money: an act of buying.”

When to Use ‘Brought’

We covered that ‘brought’ never involves the purchase of anything. You know what it means, so let’s take a look at some examples of how to use it correctly in a sentence.

  • I brought your ball back from the park. I guess you forgot it.
  • I didn’t realize you brought your tablet. It might get wet at the water park.
  • She brought her MacBook to school every day to take notes.
  • No one brought anything good to eat. All we had were chips and cookies.
  • I brought a change of clothes for gym class. They’re in my locker.
  • I brought my fiancée to work and then went to the grocery store.

When to Use ‘Bought’

Use bought when you’re talking about the purchase of something. Take a look at some examples:

  • I bought you a Valentine’s Day gift. It’s out in my car.
  • My mom bought my son a few coats for the winter.
  • We bought a few specialty desserts at this little shop downtown.
  • We bought our kids tablets for Christmas this year. They seem to love them.
  • My Grandma bought a ton of gifts for Christmas for the kids.
  • I never bought my girlfriend anything while we were together. She must hate me.

Final Thoughts on ‘Brought’ and ‘Bought’ 

To recap, we’ve learned that ‘brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring’ and ‘bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy.’ Keep that in mind when crafting your sentences. Use the above examples as a guide.

Feeling stuck on this or other confusing words? We’ve got a whole library of content dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in the English language.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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