An example sentence I've seen is 「彼にビデオを借りました。」 which was prompted with "I borrowed a video from him." and for a long time I would accidentally say 「彼からビデオを借りました。」 instead the first time. Does that impolitely make him seem like a faceless corporation/building or is it just wrong in every case?

Also, does 借りる with に mean something more like "to take on a debt" than just "borrow"? As in, the focus being more on the obligation towards the lender rather than the item. (That is how I have rationalized the use of に here.)

1 Answer 1


(人)にビデオを借りました and (人)からビデオを借りました are both correct, and there is no difference in meaning. Perhaps に is relatively more common in a very simple case like this, but using から is not unnatural at all. The verb 借りる can be used when seriously borrowing money and when casually borrowing an eraser, and the particle choice has nothing to do with this.

However, に is so versatile that you may have to pay special attention when a passive/causative form is involved. What does this sentence mean?


  1. The book was borrowed by him. (He received the book)
  2. The book was borrowed from him. (He gave the book)

In this case, 1 is the correct interpretation, and you need to use から (or より) to say 2.


  1. I made him borrow the book (from someone).
  2. I made (someone) borrow the book from him.

This is technically ambiguous, but people tend to take this as 1 when there is no context. その本を彼から借りさせました is better when 2 is the intended meaning.

Related: Ambiguity when describing with verbs, e.g. 酒を飲ませる人

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