Loan versus Lend

A memory trick for the traditional rules.

Bonnie Mills, Writing for
3-minute read
Episode #115

loan or lend

Today’s topic is the difference between the words loan and lend.

Bonnie Trenga, who wrote this week's show, writes, Traditionally, lend is the verb and loan is the noun. I'll have a memory trick for you at the end.

British Rules

This rule is still true in Britain, but not in America (1). So in the UK it would be wrong to say, “My mom loaned me her favorite dress.” In the U.K., you’d have to say, “My mom lent me her favorite dress.”

American Rules

Some American grammarians agree with the British rule and prefer to use loan as a noun only. One American stickler, Bill Walsh, author of Lapsing Into a Comma, suggests that you consider giving up loaned for lent [quot “if you don’t want to incur the word nerds’ wrath” (2). Others contend that loan as a verb has been used “vigorously” in American English so it “must be considered standard” (3). In fact, loan has been used as a verb for nearly 800 years (4).


You will often see the verb to loan, and the noun loan, when you’re talking about banks and money. You can go to the Loan Department to ask for a loan (a noun). If you meet the financial requirements, the bank will loan you the money (loan is a verb). You don’t, however, refer to the bank as the loaner; rather, it’s called the lender. (A loaner often refers to a car that you borrow if you have your car in the shop.)

Next: It's Different for Art and Figurative Lending


About the Author

Bonnie Mills, Writing for Grammar Girl

Bonnie Mills has been a copyeditor since 1996.