Bring and Take

By Jacquelyn Landis

Writers tend to get confused about when to use bring and take. Many think that the two words can be used interchangeably, but they do have two distinctly different uses. Which one you use depends entirely on your perspective for the action.

Bring indicates action coming toward the speaker; take means action taken away from the speaker. So from your perspective, your kids will bring their homework to you to check, and then they’ll take it to school tomorrow. From your kids’ perspective, they’ll take their homework to you and then bring it with them when they go to school tomorrow.

The trick is to think about your location. Something coming your way is brought to you. Something going away is taken from you.

It can get confusing occasionally, and when it does you have to depend on the surrounding context to help you determine the point of reference. Check out these examples:

Be sure to bring a jacket with you in case it gets cold.

Be sure to take a jacket with you in case it gets cold.

Both can be correct. In the former example, the meaning is to carry the jacket with you to where you are going. It’s likely that this would be something the person you’re joining would say to you. In the latter example, the meaning is to take it away from your starting point. It sounds a lot like something Mom would say as you’re running out of the house.

To simplify the concept even more, think of it like this: you bring things here and take them there. It’s not an infallible method, but it works most of the time.

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19 Responses to “Bring and Take”

  • Brad K.

    This seems related to give and take. Take is simple to keep track of here – I can give something, or take something. It depends on who starts out with whatever it is that is being exchanged.

    Someone could take something from me; a bully could *make* me surrender – almost the same as give – that something.

    There seems to be a time issue in bring and take. Bring is something done in the future, a planned action. Take is something done in the past, an action already in motion. Or perhaps an instruction to “take” something is an intervention, an intrusion, a disruption of someone else’s plan, rather than an action.

  • GoingLikeSixty

    This is a regional manner of speaking that has moved to informal writing ala colloquialisms.

  • Levi Montgomery

    I swear, if I have to read one more news article about Johnny “bringing” a knife to school, I’m going to scream. Not unless that reporter is sitting in the school, or was with him when he went to school, he didn’t.

    Johnny TOOK TOOK TOOK the knife to school!

    / sorry

  • Adam

    Sorry Levi, but I have to disagree – I may be completely wrong, but I can convince myself!

    From the viewpoint of little angry Johnny (after the fact), he brought the knife to school.

    From the viewpoint of the kids (after the fact) he stabbed in Math class, he brought the knife to school.

    From the viewpoint of the angry, overweight, and bothersome mothers, (after the fact) Johnny took the knife to school.

    From the viewpoint of the Journalist (writing from a past omnipotent view point), Johnny was bringing the knife, plotting and scheming to overthrow the faculty with a few quick pokes from his fiberglass shiv.

  • Adam

    But I do admit that people screw it up more often than I’d care to think!

  • jack

    i’ve got kinda confused after reading different comment ..If i am saying ..I am bringing my stuff to my room(I’m in action) or yesterday i brought my stuff to my room(past) ..are they correct sentences or not?

  • Cassie Tuttle

    The bring/take problem ranks high on my list of pet peeves.

    There’s a TV commercial airing these days, telling viewers to “bring” something or other to their doctor. Grrrr! I just did a Google search to see if I could find the offender. I haven’t found that particular advertiser (yet). But on the first page of my Google search, there are 10 results: from a quick glance, at least half of those results use “bring” when they should use “take.” For example:

    * “Ten Things to Bring to Your Next Doctor Visit”
    * “You may want to print the list out and bring it to your doctor’s appointment.”
    * “Bring these HIV discussion questions to your next doctor visit.”

    I am amazed at the number of well-educated, literate people who are not able to distinguish the difference in usage between these two words. 🙁

  • Peter

    From your kids’ perspective, they’ll take their homework to you and then bring it with them when they go to school tomorrow.

    Oh no they won’t—they’ll take it with them when they go to school tomorrow. At which time they will have brought it to school (when they’re at school), but if they’re at home now it would only make sense to say they’ll “bring” it to school tomorrow when talking to a teacher or someone who will be at school tomorrow.

  • Jacquelyn Landis

    @ Jack–It should be “take” and “took.” In both instances, the action is away from you. You’re taking your stuff away from one place to your room. If someone was in your room waiting for the stuff, that person would say, “Jack is bringing his stuff to his room.”

  • Jacquelyn Landis

    @ Peter–You’re correct. Just goes to show how tricky this can be.

  • Levi Montgomery

    Adam;

    Sorry, but I have to disagree. You may be right, but you haven’t convinced me. 🙂

    You bring here; you take there. If the journalist is at the school, he can legitimately say “Johnny brought the knife (here) to school with him.” If he is in some office somewhere, he should say “Johnny took the knife (there) to school with him.”

    The only exception I can think of is when the speaker is not in whatever place specified, but will be when the action takes place. “I am bringing my macaw with me when I come to visit you,” I might say to you on the phone, although I am neither on my way nor in your house. “When we meet in Chicago for the picnickers’ convention, don’t forget to bring the watermelons.”

    For what it’s worth (which, without a citation, isn’t much) I believe John Gardner, writing in the early eighties, referred to this as the “peculiarly Northeastern inversion of ‘bring’ and ‘take.’ ” I thought it was in ON BECOMING A NOVELIST, although several scans have failed to bring it to eye. It may have been in THE ART OF FICTION, my copy of which seems to have disappeared.

    I do know that forty years ago in school, I would never have been allowed to make such an inversion.

    Levi

  • jorge

    From your kids’ perspective, they’ll take their homework to you and then bring it with them when they go to school tomorrow.

    Is it not they’ll take their homework (from) you and then bring it with them when they go to school tomorrow. Which means the kids got something away from you and will carry it to a specified location-school. Really these two verbs creates a debatable issue that even established rules can be refute.

  • gabrielle T

    When people says, ‘I’m going to take a shower’, I wonder where they think they’re taking it to. In this instance should it not be, ‘I am going to have a shower’.

  • gabrielle T

    When people say, ‘they are going to take a shower’, I wonder where they think they’re taking it to. In this instance should they not say, ‘I am going to have a shower’.

  • Celidus

    This is why I just use the word ‘brung’ for everything. It drives ‘everyone’ nuts. ie.
    “I brung my homework to school.” and “I’ll brung it with me when I go tomorrow.” – See, you’re fuming already aren’t you? Delightful.

  • Warsaw Will

    Easy method – if you go somewhere (i.e. there), you take something with you; if you come somewhere (i.e. here), you bring something with you. And if you go somewhere to find something, you go and get or fetch it, and then bring it back.

    But when you’re talking to somebody on the phone or in an email etc, you see things from their perspective, so it’s – ‘Hi Mum. I’m bringing the kids when I come to see you tomorrow.’ Even though from your perspective, mum lives ‘there’, not ‘here’.

  • Dympna P

    Of course it doesn’t help when Teachers use the incorrect words in the classroom – “Bring this letter home to your parents this evening”!!!

    Where I live, that happens all the time and it really gets under my skin – I was told it is a regional language ‘thing’; to which I replied “Living in Britain, English language is the same all over the UK – not regionalised like dialect”!!!!

  • Simon

    @GoingLikeSixty

    The misuse of bring and take in today’s society is not a regional manner of speaking. I wish I could tell you that any English teacher would put you right on this whatever region you’re in, but I think the these sorts of grammatical errors start at school.

    It grates me to hear statements like “don’t forget to bring your passport to the airport tomorrow” (unless of course you’re at the airport when it’s said).

    Sadly, when I have the temerity to correct this misuse, I am inevitably told that “it doesn’t matter” – well, it does to me.

  • Carole Raschella

    I gather by the comments that this article was written seven years ago. I found it just now looking to see if Daily Writing Tips had written an article on the subject of bring vs. take. Well, of course they have! One of my biggest pet peeves. It makes the speaker sound stupid even though in most cases they’re not. I was interested to read the comment that it’s a northeastern U.S. usage because it’s something I’ve noticed for years. My ex is an extremely intelligent, highly educated and talented tech writer, with impeccable spelling and grammar skills. But he was raised in New York and has always used bring instead of take. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him use the word take!

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