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How do you explain the difference between "take" and "bring" to a non-English speaker?


J-rap
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Bring implies action toward the subject and take implies action away from the subject. "Bring me the ball." "Take the ball." Sometimes we do use them almost interchangeably so it can be confusing.

 

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Is it action toward/away from the subject? Or is it toward/away from the speaker? If you say, "Bring me the ball", the subject is the person you are speaking to, but they are bringing the ball toward YOU, the speaker. The subject of the verb take/bring will always be traveling along with the object.

 

I think it has to do with action relative to where the speaker is when they are speaking:

 

"I brought a casserole to the potluck." -- I'm at the potluck right now, and the action was toward my current position.

 

"I took a casserole to the potluck." -- I'm at home again, and the action was away from my current position

 

"He brought a ladder outside." -- I am outside, and the subject's action was toward me.

 

"He took the ladder outside." -- I am inside, and the subject's action was away from me.

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When I taught English abroad, I'd have one student stand up, I'd stand on one side of the room and tell the student, Zhenya, bring me the book.  After she did, I'd hand it back to her. Then I'd say, "Now take the book to Sascha (who was on the other side of the room.) We'd practice a few more times with various students. The actually, physically moving helped it sink in well.

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As a (pretty decent) native English speaker, this was not a distinction I ever worried about until I met DH, who has been trying to drill the difference into my head for the two+ decades we've been married. I guess we all have our things...

 

My husband I believe once mentioned confusion about this and said he had to think about it (English is his second language).  Or was that borrow and lend.  I think borrow and lend are the same word in German?  Something like that.  I thought what is the confusion about borrowing and lending.  But yeah...he said it's confusing to him.

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My husband I believe once mentioned confusion about this and said he had to think about it (English is his second language).  Or was that borrow and lend.  I think borrow and lend are the same word in German?  Something like that.  I thought what is the confusion about borrowing and lending.  But yeah...he said it's confusing to him.

 

Yes, borrow and lend is the same verb in German. It is fairly typical for Germans to have trouble with that.

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"Take" is always used when you move an object away from its original place (take the jacket with you when you head outside because it is raining) and "bring" is always used when you move the object in question to a destination with you (bring the groceries inside from the car with you).

Edited by mathnerd
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Is it action toward/away from the subject? Or is it toward/away from the speaker? If you say, "Bring me the ball", the subject is the person you are speaking to, but they are bringing the ball toward YOU, the speaker. The subject of the verb take/bring will always be traveling along with the object.

 

I think it has to do with action relative to where the speaker is when they are speaking:

 

"I brought a casserole to the potluck." -- I'm at the potluck right now, and the action was toward my current position.

 

"I took a casserole to the potluck." -- I'm at home again, and the action was away from my current position

 

"He brought a ladder outside." -- I am outside, and the subject's action was toward me.

 

"He took the ladder outside." -- I am inside, and the subject's action was away from me.

I should have said speaker, not subject.

 

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Take and bring are interchangeable for a large number of native speakers, especially in colloquial speech. A smaller number of native speakers will use borrow and lend or teach and learn interchangeably. These usages aren't wrong, but they are more informal and - especially the "borrow and lend" one, or "teach and learn" - often stigmatized.

 

If you think it's wrong, take it up with Shakespeare.

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Take moves away from the subject.  Take the box to the neighbor

 

Bring moves toward the subject.  Bring me the box (or Bring the box to me)

 

It can get more interesting when the action is with you and moving on.   Take the box with you.....Again, moving away (when you go, take box).  Bring the box home with you.  (As you are out with the box, make sure you return the box)

 

 

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I wonder if using bring and take interchangeably is regional - similar to the use of carry. I don't usually hear people mixing up the two but those same people will "carry" their kids to dance lessons.

 

What do you mean? 

 

Twice I have carried Youngest to piano lessons. Once was because he was young and nicely asked, the other was I carried him home since he slipped and fell and hurt his leg. But in both those cases I actually carried him - as in he was on my back and I was walking. 

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What do you mean? 

 

Twice I have carried Youngest to piano lessons. Once was because he was young and nicely asked, the other was I carried him home since he slipped and fell and hurt his leg. But in both those cases I actually carried him - as in he was on my back and I was walking. 

 

 

Carry is often used to say you drove someone somewhere. Examples:

 

Julie's car is in the shop so I offered to carry her to the grocery store.

 

I have to carry the kids to school. I'll call you when I get back. 

 

ETA: I don't use carry this way, but it's not uncommon here and no one bats an eye at those who say it.

Edited by Lady Florida.
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Carry is often used to say you drove someone somewhere. Examples:

 

Julie's car is in the shop so I offered to carry her to the grocery store.

 

I have to carry the kids to school. I'll call you when I get back. 

 

ETA: I don't use carry this way, but it's not uncommon here and no one bats an eye at those who say it.

I have never heard this usage but it reminded me of when I was in college and after a test was returned this guy asked me what I made. I had no idea what he meant because I hadn't made anything. We went back and forth until I finally figured it out and I asked him if he wanted to know what I got on the test. He made grades. I got grades. 

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