'Lend' vs 'Borrow': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on June 1, 2023

‘Lend’ vs ‘Borrow’: What’s the Difference? This article will primarily be a lesson in opposites, given that that is the main connection between these two words. While ‘borrow’ may be a slightly more commonly used word, it is important to understand how ‘lend’ functions as its counterpart.

Want a sneak peek at what you’ll learn? 

  • ‘Lend’ is a verb meaning to let someone use something of yours temporarily
  • ‘Borrow’ is a verb meaning to use something of someone else for a period of time

What’s the Difference Between ‘Lend’ vs ‘Borrow’?

Opposing words often come in pairs that compliment each other, as is the case with ‘lend’ and ‘borrow. The easiest way to keep these two words clear in mind is to think about giving versus taking. 

  • A lender is the one doing the giving. Meanwhile, the borrower is doing the taking. 

Another important factor to keep in mind with these words, especially if you are using them in a story or project, is that ‘lend’ and ‘borrow’ both describe temporary situations. 

  • Remember that the expectation with lending and borrowing is that the object will be returned and only used for an agreed-upon period of time.

A final thing to keep in mind as you explore these two words is their tendency to not translate directly into other languages, making them trickier to learn. Many people who are learning English as a second language will use the word ‘borrow’ in place of ‘lend’: 

  • For example, they may say something like “They borrowed this to me” instead of “They lent this to me.”

This is an honest mistake caused by non-linear translations but can be an obstacle when wanting to sound as fluent as possible. So, as we dive deeper into the relationship between these opposing words, remember the words’ respective connection to givers and takers.

Now let’s get a closer look at ‘lend’ vs ‘borrow.' 

Definition of ‘Lend’: What Does It Mean? 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Lend’ is defined as a verb meaning: 

  • To grant to (someone) the use of (something) on the understanding that it shall be returned. 
  • To allow (a person or organization) the use of (a sum of money) under an agreement to pay it back later, typically with interest. 

It can also mean: 

  • Contribute or add (something, especially a quality) to. 
  • Accommodate or adapt oneself to. 
  • (of a thing) be suitable for. 

Synonyms of ‘Lend’

  • Loan
  • Advance
  • Sub
  • Let someone use
  • Impart
  • Bestow
  • Grant 
  • Offer

Antonyms of ‘Lend’

  • Borrow
  • Withhold
  • Detract
  • Deny
  • Keep
  • Withdraw
  • Conceal

Phrases with ‘Lend’

  • Lending hand
  • Lending library
  • Lend money

Definition of ‘Borrow’: What Does It Mean? 

Oxford Languages defines ‘Borrow’ as a verb meaning: 

  • Take and use (something that belongs to someone else) with the intention of returning it.

It can also have more specific meanings, such as: 

  • Take and use money from a person or bank under the agreement to pay it back later
  • Take (a word, idea, or method) from another source and use it in one's own language or work. 
  • Take and use a book from a library for a fixed period of time.
  • In subtraction, take a unit from the next larger denomination

Synonyms of ‘Borrow’

  • Acquire
  • Rent
  • Obtain
  • Pawn
  • Adopt
  • Imitate
  • Copy

Antonyms of ‘Borrow’ 

  • Lend
  • Forfeit
  • Give
  • Steal
  • Pay
  • Lose

Phrases with ‘Borrow’

  • Borrow this
  • Something borrowed
  • Borrowed time
  • Beg, borrow, steal

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Lend’ and ‘Borrow’

Since writing isn’t the only place where we use words, we want you to be equipped with all the vocabulary tools, including how to pronounce these new words. As always, it’s smart to keep in mind that words may sound different when spoken with different regional accents. While this doesn’t change anything about the word, it will help expand your global understanding of the English language and its vernacular. 

Use this guide for a basic pronunciation of these new words. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Lend’ for reference: 

  • Leh-nd (with the same ‘E’ as in ‘tent’)

Use this phonetic spelling ‘Borrow’ for reference: 

  • Bahr-roh (with the first ‘O as in ‘bar’ and the second as in ‘snow’)

How to Use ‘Lend’ vs ‘Borrow’ in a Sentence

Since opposite words that are so connected, like ‘lend’ and ‘borrow,’ can be a bit tricky to separate, let’s look at some example sentences to help keep the context clear. 


  • Will you lend me your calculator for the test today since I forgot mine at home? 
  • The bank will lend you money when you are in need of student loans. 
  • She lent a hand at the homeless shelter last weekend making lunches. 
  • His low voice lends itself well to singing bass in the choir. 


  • She wanted to borrow her sister’s red heels for prom because they matched her dress. 
  • The kids got to check out and borrow books from the library every week. 
  • The phrase ‘faux pas’ is borrowed from French. 
  • The thief claimed only to be borrowing the stolen property. 

Final Advice on ‘Lend’ vs ‘Borrow’

Today, we took quite a tour of these opposite words and learned some new synonyms, antonyms, phrases, and ways to avoid common translation mistakes. Especially when learning English as a new language, it is important to remember that with verbs, the context of the action and who is doing the acting can be most helpful in clarifying when to use what word. 

Want a short recap of the article? 

  • Remember that ‘lend’ means allowing someone else to use something temporarily, and the term applies to the person doing the giving.
  • Meanwhile, ‘borrow’ is a verb meaning using an object that belongs to someone else for a fixed short period of time before returning it, and the borrower is doing the taking. 

Learning opposites that are heavily intertwined can always be a challenge, but remember what you’ve learned, and you’ll be able to write, present, converse, and translate these words for any occasion. If you need help sorting through other confusing words, you can check out other articles that will help expand your vocabulary and linguistic understanding all in one place.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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