Everyone has family, friends, or colleagues who at one time or another will want to borrow something that you have. It may just be a pen to write a note, or money for lunch, or something more substantial like your truck for a day so they can move or the use of your lake-side cabin for a  weekend getaway. Whatever it is, there are standard expressions that can be used. Look at these examples.


English Expressions


Expression Response
Could you lend me (…a dollar)? Of course, my pleasure.

Sorry, I’m broke.

May I borrow ( … your text book)? Sure, go ahead.

Yes, but only after I’m  finished with it.

Do you mind if I use ( …your pen)?


Not at all, help yourself.

I’m sorry, but this is my lucky pen and I never let  anyone use it.

Will you lend me ( … your car)?    Maybe, where are you going and when will you be returning?

No way.

Lend and Borrow

Lend and borrow are frequently used incorrectly by non-native speakers. They are very similar in meaning, but can not be used interchangeably. It may help if you think of borrow to mean receive or take something. When using borrow, the subject of the sentence is receiving something Think of lend to mean give something. When using lend, the subject of the sentence is giving something.


Can you borrow me your book?   Incorrect

Can I borrow your book?              Correct

Can you lend me your book?       Correct


English Dialogue

Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have similar conversations.


Alfred: Olive, can I borrow your new Stone’s CD?

Olive: No.

Alfred: Why not, I’ll give it back. I just want to make a copy.

Olive: I know; I trust you. It’s just that I only got it this morning and haven’t listened to that much yet. I’ll lend it to

you in a couple of days.

Alfred: Ok, that will work.

Olive: Will you lend me your truck on Saturday morning. I have to take a load to the dump.

Alfred: Sure, as long as you return it by noon and put a few gallons of gas in it before you return it. My sister

wants to borrow it to help her friend move.

Olive: No problem. Do you want me to return it to your place or your sister’s?

Alfred: Better make it my place. She could change her mind, you know how she is.


After reading, close your book and tell your partner a summary of the dialogue. Then switch and have your partner tell his or her summary. Start like this: This dialogue is about a person wanting to borrow…This may seem silly, since you both already know what the dialogue is about, but the purpose is to practice using your English, not to give information or test your reading skills.


Conversation Activities


1. Pair work- discussion

     Do you lend or borrow things often? Tell your partner about it using some of the ideas for discussion below.

Your partner should ask questions to get more information.

  • what do you lend/borrow
  • how long are things borrowed or lent for
  • how often does it happen
  • have you every had problems getting it back or returning it


2. Pair work- discussion

     Ask your partner if you can borrow some of the items below, using the expressions above.


Your partner should ask how long you intend to have the item and when you plan to return it. If your partner

refuses to lend the item, find out why and try to persuade him to lend it anyway.

Cell phone                               Clock                         Dictionary

                  Cassette player                       Bicycle                       Truck

                  Computer                                Lawn mower              Money