How to…. borrow something politely

how to borrow

(From Manners Matter in the Classroom by Lori Mortenson, illustrated by Lisa Hunt (1))

There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to borrow things politely in English.

Shouting ‘Give me your rubber!’ across the classroom won’t make you very popular; neither will just grabbing it off your classmate’s desk without asking.

how to borrow 1

Funny clip from Peep Show:

So here are some examples of the right way to do it!

Isabel: “Can I borrow your pen?”

Paula: “Sure, here you go.”

Isabel: “Thank you.”

Paula: “No problem.”


Isabel: “Do you have a sharpener I could borrow?”

Paula: “Yes, here you are.”

Isabel: “Thanks.”

Paula: “You’re welcome.”


Juan: “Can you lend me your rubber?”

Pedro: “Yes, here you are.”

Juan: “Thanks a million.”

Pedro: “My pleasure.”

And of course there are times when you’re not feeling so generous…

Juan: “Could I borrow your pen for a minute?”

Pedro: “No, I’m sorry I’m using it.”

Juan: “Oh ok. No problem, I’ll ask Isabel.”

Lend or borrow?

how to borrow 2

Don’t worry if you get lend and borrow confused – they are very similar. Here’s a quick reminder of how to use them.

Lend shows that something is (temporarily) given to another person.

Borrow shows that something is (temporarily) taken from another person.

For example:

Juan: “Could I borrow your stapler?”

Maria: “Of course, here you go.”

Juan: “Thanks. Would you mind lending it to me until tomorrow? I have some notes at home I need to staple.”

Maria: “Not at all.”

(The next day)

Maria: “Hi Juan, could I have my stapler back, please? I need it.”

Juan: “Sure, thanks for lending it to me!”

But be careful who you ask, not everyone likes to share.

Can you think of any other things you might need to borrow?

Leave a comment with your suggestions.