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Chinese Grammar: Lesson: Borrow or lend?

Imagine you find yourself in an urgent situation: you're about to take the HSK test, and you realize you forgot your pens at home! Then you need to borrow one immediately from someone, right?!

In English, it's easy. When we want to borrow or to lend, the distinction is clear. However, in Chinese, it turns out to be another thing entirely, it's not that simple.

In Chinese, to say “to borrow” and “to lend”, there's only one term: . That's confusing!

But, no worries, when you really want to be clear, there's also 借给 which means “to lend to” and ... which means “to borrow from”. Let's start with these two first; they're the easiest.

Expressing “to lend” with 借给

借给 is a pattern [verb + prep.] used to indicate the object through the preposition . It means “to lend to someone”. It can both be both used with the verb or split up from it.


Lender + 借给 + Borrower + Something


He lent me a book.

Could you please lend me ten yuans?

or you can use


Lender + + Something + + Borrower


Could you please lend me a book?

Could you please lend me some money?

Expressing “to borrow from” with ...

The ... pattern doesn’t have any tricks. It’s quite easy. You simply put the lender between and , and it works.


Borrower + lender + + Something


He borrowed five yuans from me.

I borrowed a computer from her.

I borrowed a book from the library.

Using to cover both meanings

Here is the tricky one. When used on its own, can mean both “to borrow” and “to lend”. You can directly use this word if you want to express either meaning. The counterpart to that is that you need to pay attention to the context to tell whether it means “to borrow” or “to lend”.


点儿 ?( 借给 )
Could you please lend me some money?

因为 。( )
Because he forgot to bring his book, I lent him one.

不会 任何 东西 。( 借给 )
He won’t lend anything to you.

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