Borrowing and lending in Chinese grammar: 借 (jiè), 借给 (jiègěi) and 跟…借 (gēn…jiè)
The words 借 (jiè), 借给 (jiègěi) and 跟…借 (gēn…jiè) in Chinese are all used to talk about borrowing and lending. Whilst English has separate words for “to borrow” and “to lend” (although not all native speakers are consistent with these), Chinese just has 借 to cover both senses. Which one it means depends on how the sentence is structured.
It probably makes sense to look at 借给 and 跟…借 first, as they are consistently “lend” and “borrow”, respectively. Then we’ll look at 借 in general, as it can mean either “borrow” or “lend”.
借给: to lend to
To talk about lending things to people in Chinese, you can use the word 借给. This is a nice word to use because it includes the preposition you need to you don’t need to think about it too much. Read more about this kind of verb-给 compound.
Remember though, that because 借给 is actually two words joined together (verb and preposition), it very often gets split up in Chinese sentences. You just have to get a feel for this by doing lots of listening and reading.
Some example sentences where 借给 stays together as one unit:
Some sentences where 借给 gets split up:
Because it talks about the disposal of the object, 借给 is often used with 把 (bǎ). Some examples:
The best way to deal with these different structures for 借给 is probably to include the example sentences above in your studies, e.g. in your SRS, and generally try to read and listen to as much Chinese as you can. This will give a natural feel for the sentences better than trying to memorise structures by rote.
跟…借: to borrow from
To talk about “borrowing from” as opposed to “lending to” you can use 跟…借, putting the person borrowed from in the middle. This is probably a bit easier to use than 借给, as there aren’t so many variations on the sentence structure. The basic structure is:
Some example sentences for 跟…借:
As you can see from the example sentences, 跟…借 tends to be a bit more straightforward to use than 借给. Now we move on to 借 in general, which can be used in different ways to mean either “borrow” or “lend”.
借: borrowing or lending
When not used in one of the 借给 or 跟…借 structures, 借 can mean either “borrow” or “lend”. You just have to figure it out from context. Some example sentences for 借:
他很少借钱。He rarely borrows money. He rarely lends money.
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