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 'hire' / 'rent', 'rise' / 'raise', 'drive' / 'ride'

Anne Beeker from the Netherlands asks:
What exactly is the difference between to hire and to rent? I know American English uses to rent whereas British English uses to hire, but I thought there might also be a difference between what you can hire and what you can rent. 'Hire a help' but surely not 'rent a help'?? 'Rent a car', but not 'hire a car'?

Erica from Hong Kong asks:
I want to know the difference between ‘rise’ and ‘raise’.

Sanjay Mishra from India writes:
When I return from my place of work on a automotive two-wheeler (like a scooter or a motorbike), do I drive back or ride back?

Roger replies:more questions

hire or rent?

The meaning is the same: to rent or hire something, you pay money in order to be allowed to use it for a limited amount of time. It is simply a matter of usage. With some nouns you can use one or the other – it doesn’t matter which as both are freely used. You can: rent or hire cars, bikes, electronic equipment:

  • 'We rented a TV and video as we intended to stay in England for only six months.'

  • 'If you’re planning to go to Cambridge for the day, hire a bike when you arrive. It’s the best way to get round the town.'
With other nouns it is customary in British English to use one and not the other. We would: rent a flat, caravan, cottage, house:
  • 'I rented a cottage by the sea for the summer.'

  • 'He rented me his flat in London while he was on holiday in Greece.'

(However, note the difference in use, depending on whether it is used as a verb or a noun: ‘flats to rent’, but ‘bikes for hire’)


We hire some help (i.e people), tools, equipment:
  • 'I had too much to do on the farm, so I decided to hire some help three mornings a week.'

  • 'The police enquiries were making no progress, so we decided to hire a private detective.'

  • 'I was painting the outside of the house and had to hire a tall ladder to get to the top.'

rise or raise?

Two verbs which are similar in meaning: to move to a higher position. The essential difference is that raise is a transitive verb which needs an object to complete its meaning and rise is intransitive, it functions without an object and is sometimes followed by a phrase of time or place. Compare the following:

  • 'The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.'

  • 'I rise (i.e. get up) at six o’ clock every weekday morning in order to be at work by seven.'

  • 'He rose (i.e. stood up) to greet her.'

  • 'I raised my hand because I wanted to raise a question, but he took no notice of me.'

  • 'If you are raising a family as a single parent, you shouldn’t try to work full-time.'

  • 'My child was ill and I had to raise money to pay for the operation.'

drive or ride?

Anything with four or more wheels (like a car, a bus, a lorry or a train) we drive; anything with two wheels or that we straddle (like a horse, a bike, motorbike or scooter) we ride, (even though you need a driving licence to ride a motorbike. In a recent court case, a judge in Britain has ruled that riders of go-peds – those tiny scooters which have a very small engine at the back – will also need to have a driving licence to ride them on the roads.)

Consider the following:
  • 'I had never driven such a powerful car before.'

  • 'I hadn’t ridden a bike for over twenty years and wondered if I would remember how to.'

Note that when we are passengers rather than drivers, we ride in cars and trains, but we tend to ride on buses.


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