Bring Versus Take

Today's topic is bring versus take.

Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #061

bring takeToday's topic is “bring” versus “take.” I’ll give you an overview of the basics, and then in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll give you an Irish spin on the topic at the end.

Many listeners have asked me to talk about today's topic. Here's a caller:

Hi Grammar Girl. It's Clint in Chester, VA. I have two children reaching high school age and they still don't know the difference between "bring" and "take." Can you put that on your Web? Thanks.

Thanks to Clint and the others who asked similar questions.

An interesting pattern has emerged in the questions and comments: A lot of people in Britain seem to think it is only Americans who have a problem with “bring” and “take.” I don't know if that's true, but I'll take their word for it and do my part to fix the problem.

What Is the Difference Between "Bring" and "Take"?

Whether you use “bring” or “take” generally depends on your point of reference for the action. You ask people to bring things to the place you are, and you take things to the place you are going. As one listener named Simone put it, you bring things here and take things there.

You ask people to bring things to you, and you take things to other people. You ask people to bring you coffee, and you offer to take the dishes to the kitchen. You tell people to bring you good news, and you take your camera to the beach.

You ask people to bring things to you, and you take things to other people.

For example, I would ask Aardvark to bring Squiggly to my party next week, and then Aardvark would call Squiggly and ask, “May I take you to Grammar Girl's party?” I am asking Aardvark to bring Squiggly because I am at the destination—from my perspective, Aardvark is bringing someone here. Aardvark is offering to take Squiggly because he is transporting someone to a remote destination—from Aardvark's perspective, he is taking someone there.

Here are two more examples that help me remember.

First, think of a restaurant where you can get food to go. It's often informally called getting “take out.” When you get take-out food, you're moving the food from your location—the restaurant—to somewhere else—a destination. And it's take-out food, not bring-out food. You're taking the food to a destination: out.

Second, if I'm sitting at home feeling lazy and wishing dinner would appear, I would say, “I wish someone would bring me dinner.” I imagine Pat stopping at a restaurant and getting dinner to go. From my perspective, he is bringing me dinner because dinner is coming to my location.

Next: What About "Take a Bath" or "Bring Him Down a Peg"?


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