I've seen them before used as borrow and lend. So I've been a bit confused on when to use which verb? What's the difference? Is there a difference?

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    Can you clarify more why they are confusing? The English translations "borrow" and "lend" are two different words with different meanings, so if you are able to understand those, then I'm not clear on why the Japanese should be any more difficult. A lender is the giver and the borrower is the receiver, so they describe two sides of a transaction. The Japanese is the same, is it not?
    – Questioner
    Jun 3, 2012 at 3:11

1 Answer 1


Although the English verbs can admittedly be confusing, you are correct that they are "borrow" and "lend" respectively.

So in the case of borrowing an item, 借りる (borrow) is the verb describing the temporary receiving of the item, and 貸す (lend) describes the temporary giving.

When asking to borrow something either of these are acceptable:

借りてもいいですか? (Can I borrow it?)
貸してもらえますか? (Will you lend it to me?)

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    We normally say 「トイレ/電話貸して(ください)。」「トイレ/電話借りてもいい(ですか)?」to mean 'May I use your bathroom/telephone?'. We also say 「知恵を貸してください」 to mean 'Will you give me some advice?' Would it sound awkward if I used the verbs 'lend' 'borrow' to say these in English? (Sorry for asking an irrelevant question.)
    – user1016
    Jun 3, 2012 at 4:43
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    @Chocolate "Can I borrow your toilet/phone?" sounds reasonable, but probably not used as commonly in English as in Japanese (to my English ears - could be different elsewhere). We'd more commonly say "Can I use...?" I don't think we'd ask to borrow some advice but we might say "Can I borrow you for some advice?" or something like that, conversationally. "Can I borrow you" is like an informal way of asking someone to spend some time to help you with something.
    – ジョン
    Jun 3, 2012 at 9:18

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