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.