Imagine you need to get something from a friend. Of course, you’re not going to keep this thing forever, but you’ll just use it and give it back. Is it correct to say, “Please borrow me something”?
The structure “to borrow me” is incorrect because the verb “to borrow” explains the action of taking something that isn’t yours, using it, and giving it back. So, if you’re the one borrowing, you shouldn’t add “me” after “borrow.” This is already clear from the subject of the sentence.
Also, since “to borrow” is a transitive verb, the noun that comes directly after the verb is the direct object of the action. This means you should actually put the thing that you are taking, using, and returning right after the verb “to borrow.”
Here, we’ll look at the definition of “to borrow” and the grammatical elements that point to its correct usage. Then, we’ll look at several different grammatically correct ways to talk about borrowing.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Borrow Me”?
It is not grammatically correct to say “borrow me” in almost every context unless you’re asking someone to borrow you. The verb “to borrow” means “to take and use something that belongs to someone else and return it to them at a later time,” and it is a transitive verb (source).
This means that in almost every case, you should add the direct object — that is, the noun that describes what you plan to borrow — right after the verb “to borrow.” If you want to show that you will be the one who is doing the borrowing, then use “I” as the subject or actor of the verb “to borrow.”
What Does “Borrow Me” Mean?
If you’re using the phrase “borrow me,” then someone else is borrowing you. This may seem silly, but it’s the exact definition of “borrow me.”
Usually, people use this phrase when they’ve confused the definitions of the verb “to borrow” and the verb “to lend.” It’s a popular mistake for non-native speakers of English or English language learners.
In this case, “borrow me” means that you are the thing that someone is borrowing. Someone else is taking you, using you, and then giving you back. While this may make sense in a poetic or artistic context, it really doesn’t make much sense in the everyday world.
So, even though the phrase “borrow me” can be correct in one very specific context, it’s usually a mistake. This mistake usually stems from the confusion between “to borrow” and “to lend.”
When Can You Use “Borrow Me”?
The one specific context where the phrase “borrow me” makes sense is when you are the literal object someone will borrow. However, if you’re talking about borrowing something from someone, then you shouldn’t use the phrase “borrow me.”
Instead, you should describe the thing that you’d like to borrow right after the verb “to borrow” in your sentence, which is the most common way to use the verb “to borrow correctly.”
Here, we’ll explore some of the finer points related to the verb “to borrow” and look at how to use it properly in different contexts.
In What Context Can You Use “Borrow Me”?
The only context in which “borrow me” makes sense is if someone is literally borrowing you. This sounds strange because we usually don’t borrow people; we borrow items or things.
However, like most rules in English, there is an exception. There are a few casual contexts that use “borrow (someone)” idiomatically, but these contexts are very specific. Let’s check out an example:
Boss: Hi Sarah, can I borrow you for a second? I’m having trouble with my computer.
Sarah: Sure, I’ll come take a look. Hopefully, I can help you solve it!
In this example, the boss uses the phrase “Can I borrow you?” to mean “Can I have your attention?” or “Can you divert your attention to me?” It implies that the boss wants Sarah to stop her current task, help the boss for a few minutes, and then return to her own task.
If another coworker asks Sarah where she is going when she leaves to help her boss, she might reply, “The boss needs to borrow me to fix a computer issue.” This is the one and only context where you can use the phrase “borrow me.” Other than this specific context, we don’t say “borrow me.”
As you can see, in this very specific context, it’s okay to talk about “borrowing someone.” However, the phrase is usually “borrow you” or “borrow someone else.”
Using “Borrow Me” in a Full Sentence
Since “borrow me” is only applicable in the particular context we’ve described above, there are no other correct ways to use “borrow me” in a complete sentence.
- The boss asked if he could borrow me for a few minutes; I’ll be right back.
However, a few sentence structures can help you ask to borrow something. Check out these examples of the verb “to borrow” in a full sentence, noticing how “I” is the subject and how the direct object is the thing that someone will borrow:
- Could I please borrow that book?
- I borrowed a few books from the library last week.
- Now, I am borrowing this book from the library.
- Since 2010, I have borrowed more than a thousand books from the library.
As you can see, no matter what verb tense you use for the verb “to borrow,” you typically shouldn’t put “me” as the direct object. Instead, use “I” as the subject of the sentence and use the thing someone will borrow as the verb’s direct object.
When Not to Use “Borrow Me”
In most cases — especially if you’re talking about taking something that isn’t yours, using it for a specific amount of time, and then giving it back to its owner — you shouldn’t use the phrase “borrow me.”
Instead, use “I” as the sentence’s subject to show that you are the one who is doing the borrowing. Then, add the thing or item you plan to borrow right after the verb as the direct object.
How Do You Use “Borrow Me”?
The only correct way to use “borrow me” in the standard American dialect is in the situation described above, where you are the literal thing that someone will borrow.
In the Southern dialect of the United States, you might also see the phrase “borrow me.” It isn’t uncommon in informal speech for someone to add the direct object “me” after a verb to emphasize that they are the ones completing the action.
For instance, someone might say, “I’m gonna get me a ____” or “I’m gonna borrow me a ____” when they mean they’re going to get or borrow something for themself.
What Can You Use Instead of “Borrow Me”?
Many people often confuse the verb “to borrow” with the verb “to lend.” Lending is basically the opposite of borrowing. “To lend” means “to give for temporary use on condition that the same or its equivalent be returned” (source).
Let’s look further at how to properly use the words “borrow” and “lend” in their proper contexts and solve some of the most popular mistakes that people make with these two verbs.
“To Borrow” Versus “To Lend”
If you’re talking about taking something from a friend, using it, and then giving it back, you should make yourself the subject of the request. Then, name the thing that you would like to borrow right after the verb — the thing that you’re borrowing should actually be the direct object of the transitive verb “to borrow.”
If you’re talking about giving something to a friend that they will use and then give back to you, then you should use the verb “to lend.” The verb “to lend” is essentially the opposite of “to borrow.”
Consider the following examples that help clarify the verbs “to borrow” and “to lend.”
|TO BORROW||TO LEND|
|May I please borrow that pen?||Could you please lend me that pen?|
|He didn’t borrow any money from the bank.||The bank didn’t lend him any money.|
|Is it wise for your sister to borrow the car?||Is it wise to lend the car to your sister?|
|Mary borrowed my umbrella, but she hasn’t returned it yet.||I lent Mary my umbrella, but she hasn’t returned it yet.|
Notice that “to borrow” is a regular verb, while “to lend” is an irregular verb. For the verb “to lend,” the past form (sometimes called “verb 2”) and past participle form (also called “verb 3”) are both “lent.”
For more information about irregular verb forms, check out our article “Past Tense of Run: Understanding Regular and Irregular Verb Tenses.”
Subjects and Objects With “Borrow” and “Lend”
You can see the relationships between the subject, verb, and object in each instance from the examples above.
Let’s look at “borrow” first. In the examples with “borrow,” the subject always describes the person who takes something to use it with the intent of giving it back. Then, the direct object describes what they are taking or borrowing.
With the verb “to lend,” it’s a bit different. The sentence’s subject describes who is giving something you will use and then return. Then, there are two objects after the verb.
The noun directly after the verb “to lend” is the indirect object, and it answers the question “To what?” or “To whom?” Essentially, the indirect object — right after the verb — explains who will take the item, use it, and give it back.
Then, after the indirect object comes the direct object. Just like with the verb “to borrow,” the direct object of the verb “to lend” describes the thing or item that someone will take, use, and return.
While this explanation may seem technical or even confusing at first, it highlights the importance of keeping your actors and objects straight while using the verbs “to borrow” and “to lend.”
Other Ways to Ask to Borrow Something
There are two pretty common ways to ask a friend if you can take something of theirs, use it for a while, and then give it back. They are:
- Could I please borrow (item)?
- Could you please lend me (item)?
Both questions share exactly the same meaning, and you can use them interchangeably in any situation where you want to ask politely to borrow something. But what if you’re tired of using these same questions every time? Here are some cool alternatives:
- Do me a solid and lend me (item).
- Could you please loan me (item)?
- Can I get that (item) off you?
Personal Pronoun Case
When you’re using any verb with a subject plus a direct and/or indirect object, it’s essential to remember to use the correct case for the pronouns. The pronouns that we use for subjects are different from the ones that we use for objects (source).
When a pronoun is the subject of a sentence, we can use these pronouns:
- You (singular
- You (plural)
When a pronoun is the direct object or indirect object of a verb, or when it is the object of a preposition, we should use these pronouns:
- You (singular)
- You (singular)
When a pronoun describes possession — who or what something belongs to — we use these pronoun adjectives:
- Your (singular)
- Your (plural)
And finally, when a pronoun describes possession and takes the place of another noun — that is, the noun that belongs to the person implied by the pronoun — we use these pronouns:
- Yours (singular)
- Yours (singular)
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
For more information about personal pronoun cases, read “You and I or You and Me: Understanding the Correct Use of these Pronouns.”
It’s grammatically incorrect to say “borrow me” in almost every case. This is because the verb “to borrow” is a transitive verb, so the thing or item that someone is borrowing should be the direct object of the verb.
The noun that describes the item they borrow should come directly after the verb “to borrow.” So, if you are not the thing someone borrowed, it doesn’t make sense to say “borrow me.” Instead, you are the subject of the sentence. In that case, you are the one lending something.
Many people — especially non-native English speakers and English language learners — confuse the verbs “to borrow” and “to lend.” Once you understand their definitions and how the subject relates to the action of these verbs, you can use them correctly every time!