Loan, Lend, Loaned, Lent

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Renee wrote to us to ask:

Can you please clarify the proper way to use these words: loan, lend, loaned, lent? Thank you!

If you’ll lend me a few minutes of your time, Renee, I’d be glad to!

How to use the word “loan” as a noun and verb

The word loan is most commonly used as a noun, and usually means a sum of money which will be paid back with interest (though can refer to any item which is borrowed temporarily.) This is the definition from Merriam-Webster:

1 a: money lent at interest b: something lent usually for the borrower’s temporary use

For example, the word “loan” is a noun in all of these sentences:

  • I took out a loan to pay for my new car.
  • If you can’t get another loan, you’ll have to save up.”
  • The loan of your car was very helpful to me.

Loan can also be used as a verb in American English, and can replace “lend” when the meaning is (from Merriam-Webster):

(1): to give for temporary use on condition that the same or its equivalent be returned (2): to put at another’s temporary disposal b: to let out (money) for temporary use on condition of repayment with interest

Note that “lend” is used almost exclusively in British English except for when referring to the formal act of borrowing money at interest. “Loan” can sound odd or old-fashioned, and the Merriam-Webster dictionary states:

Although a surprising number of critics still voice objections, loan is entirely standard as a verb. You should note that it is used only literally; lend is the verb used for figurative expressions, such as “lending a hand” or “lending enchantment.”

Examples of loan being used as a verb are:

  • Please could you loan me some money.
  • I’ll loan him the car if he really needs it.

When can “lend” be used instead of “loan”?

In many cases, the verb lend can be substituted for the verb loan – note that lend can never be used as a noun, though. (“I took out a lend to pay for my new car” doesn’t make sense!) Lend doesn’t have the same connotations of a financial transaction as loan, and you can lend both physical objects and intangible concepts. For example:

  • I will lend you my bicycle so you can get to work on time.
  • When I’ve finished reading my book, I’ll lend it to you.
  • Could you lend a hand with this suitcase?
  • The new carpet lends the room a cheerful air.

What should “lent” and “loaned” be used?

The word lent is the past tense of the verb to lend. For example:

  • I lent you my bicycle last week. Why haven’t you given it back yet?
  • When I lent you my book, you promised not to write in it.
  • No-one lent a hand with my suitcase.

(If you’re used to British English, be careful not to confuse this with leant, the past tense of the verb to lean, which is pronounced in the same way. If you’re American, you’ll probably use “leaned”, but British English uses “leant” and this can cause a lot of confusion.)

The word loaned is the past tense of the verb to loan. For example:

  • He loaned me a thousand pounds to start my business.
  • If you had loaned me the money when I asked for it, I’d have succeeded.
  • When I loaned him my tractor, I had no idea what he was going to do with it.

Hope that clarifies the use of “loan, lend, loaned and lent”, and do ask in the comments – or on the Daily Writing Tips forum – if there’s anything you’re still unclear on.

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24 thoughts on “Loan, Lend, Loaned, Lent”

  1. This reminds me of a friend of mine who used to ask me to “borrow him” something.

    What can I say. Fingernails on blackboard kind of reaction from my side lol.

  2. In parts of the UK it is actually common to use “lend” as a noun – “Can I have a lend of your bike?” would be accepted. Can this be classed as dialectal or would you simply consider it to be inaccurate?

  3. Hey, nice tip. Now , lent or lended ?. If lent, why the sentences in the newspapers or net : I lended a hand to … Is it wrong? Looking foward for an answer.

  4. Gisele, it should be “lent” but the form “lended” does seem to be creeping into usage. It may be that both forms become acceptable, given more time (this is a pattern seen with other words, like “leaned” and “leant” for the past version of “lean”.) See for more information on “lend”.

  5. Borrow is “to Take”, lend is to give. Substitute take and give in the sentence and it will be as clear as a bell.

  6. On “loaned” vs “lent”: You were doin’ fine until that last example about the tractor. Why would you “loan” someone your tractor, but “lend” someone your car? Seems the distinction applies to money vs discreet items.

  7. Loaned is solely American. Everywhere else it is considered incorrect and colloquial.

    When in doubt, I would use ‘lent’ instead of ‘loaned’ (which to me sounds uneducated and ‘slangy’).

    ‘I lent him my book’.
    ‘May you lend me some money?’
    ‘She lent me her book.’
    ‘She lent me some money.’

  8. I’ve been told (in school in the 1980’s high school – I do have 2 Bachelor of Arts from University since that time too) when I was learning about “loaned” vs. “lent” and which was the correct usage for the past tense of “to loan” that “lent” is a time around Easter and that “loaned” is the proper past tense to use for “to loan”.

  9. English is English. Not American. You bastardised our standard language, missing out u’s and changing verbs. The language is called ENGLISH for a reason. NOT AMERICAN. Learn to spell the correct English way and do not insult us with your ridiculous American idioms. Sincerely.

  10. Annoyed, be prepared to continue to be annoyed over and over again. Language doesn’t stagnate. It’s part of the nature of language to evolve. If you stepped back in time 1000 years, you wouldn’t be able to understand people speaking English because it has changed so much and it will continue to change. Not to mention that English is a mishmash of a bunch of other languages and dialects to begin with.

  11. Please, let’s try to train our brain to accept and respect others opinions.
    1. ‘lend’ is synonymous with ‘loan’.
    2. lend and loan can be used as a verb (to mean to give something to someone for a period of time)
    3. Forms of lend and loan are:
    i) I/we » lend/loan (present tense) and, lent/loaned (past tense).
    ii) He/she » lends/loans (present tense) and, lent/loaned (past tense).
    Thank you for your silence.

  12. Just wanted to point out a typo on this page:

    “What should “lent” and “loaned” be used?”

    Thanks for all the great info!

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