Tricky verb pairs – go/come, lend/borrow and hear/listen

Tricky verb pairs – go/come, lend/borrow and hear/listen

There are three pairs of verbs in English that often cause students a lot of problems. They are ‘to go/to come’, ‘to lend and to borrow’ and ‘to hear and to listen’.

Students often do not know when to use ‘come’ or when to say ‘borrow’ or ‘listen’, so they make mistakes like “teacher, you listen me” or “can you borrow me your pen?” So how can you get it right?

‘Listen’ and ‘hear’ actually have different meanings, once you know the difference, it is easier to use the right word. ‘Listen’ means to pay attention, ‘hear’ is just what your ears do. So when you come into class, your teacher will ask if you can hear them to make sure that the sound is loud enough, but when you give an answer, your teacher is listening to make sure that they have heard exactly what you have said.

‘Lend’ and ‘borrow’ have very similar meanings, but the action behind them is different. You lend to someone – you give them something for a short period; and when you borrow, you take something from someone. So take a look at “can you lend me your pen?” and “I need to borrow some money from the bank.” There is a difference in action; one is passive, one is active.

It is the same with ‘come’ and ‘go’, they have a similar meaning, but there is a difference in direction. ‘To come’ means to go towards someone or a place, while ‘to go’ is a movement away from someone or something. So for example “Can you come tomorrow?” as opposed to “I went to his house last week.”

However, be careful, when talking about where you were born or where you live, always use ‘come from’ as in “I come from Russia”.

 image: Hans Van Rijnberk

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