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'lend' or 'borrow'
borrowing some money

Omar Weli from Somalia asks:

How can I use the word owe when I lend someone some money. Do I say: 'I owe you 20 dollars' or do I say: 'You owe me 20 dollars?' The importance of my question is how do I use this word in both ways such as when I borrow some money from someone and also when I lend someone some money?


Roger replies:more questions

If you borrow something from somebody, you take it with their permission and promise to return it in due course, at the end of a limited period usually. If you borrow £5,000 from the bank, you will owe them £5,000, plus interest on the period of time you have borrowed if for.

Consider the following:

  • 'I borrowed five pounds from my brother and forgot to pay it back.'

  • 'I always buy the books I want to read, although I agree it would be cheaper to borrow them from the library.'

  • 'Many of his ideas are borrowed from other sources.'

If you lend somebody something, or lend something to somebody, then you give them something of yours for a limited period of time. If you lend someone some money, they will owe you the money.

Consider the following:

  • 'She lent her sister her car for the weekend.' (NB: verb + indirect object + direct object)

  • 'If you lend your coat to Philip, you’ll never see it again.' (NB: verb + direct object + indirect object)

  • 'If you can lend me a hand with these reports, we might finish them by suppertime.'

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