Bring Versus Take

Today's topic is bring versus take.

Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #061

Exceptions: "Bring" and "Take" in Idioms

I suspect one reason some people are confused about "bring" and "take" is that there are many exceptions to the basic rules. For example, idioms such as "bring someone down a peg" and "take a bath" and phrasal verbs such as "bring up," "bring about," "take down," and "take after" don't comply with the rule that "bring" means to cause something to come to the speaker and "take" means to cause something to go away from the speaker.

Exceptions: “Bring” and “Take” for Future Events

Further, the simple rules fall apart when you consider an event in the future where nobody has arrived yet. Do you bring rum cake to the school bazaar or do you take rum cake to the school bazaar? It simply depends on where you want to place the emphasis of the sentence—which perspective you want to adopt.

If you want to focus on the school and write from the perspective of the bazaar, you bring the cake to the bazaar.

If you want to focus on your kitchen and write from the perspective of home, then you take the cake to the bazaar (which puts the focus on taking it away from your home).

When you start writing about the future and have to choose between “bring” and “take,” imagine where you are in the scenario, and make your word choice based on that location.

The Past Tense of “Bring”

As an aside, the past tense of “bring” is “brought,” as in, “He brought me flowers.” In some regions people say “brung” or “brang,” but it isn't standard English.

What About "Come" and "Go"?

An interesting note is that the words “come” and “go” follow rules that are similar to those for “bring” and “take.”

“Come” is like “bring”: you ask people to come here—to come to where you are. “Go” is like “take”: you tell people to go away—to move away from your location. Aardvark and Squiggly will come to my party, and when Aardvark calls Squiggly, he'll say, “Let's go to Grammar Girl's party.”

Next: The Quirky Irish Twist on "Bring" and "Take"


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