prêter vs emprunter

The verbs prêter and emprunter can cause a lot of confusion among students learning French. In this post we’ll take a look at each verbs and explain the difference. In short, prêter means to lend and emprunter means to borrow. The confusion between the two verbs has to do with the preposition à following each verb. Keep reading…

Before looking at some example sentences let’s first have a look at the verbs in the present tense.

PRÊTEREMPRUNTER
je prête
tu prêtes
il, elle, on prête
nous prêtons
vous prêtez
ils, elles prêtent
j'emprunte
tu empruntes
il, elle, on emprunte
nous empruntons
vous empruntez
ils, elles empruntent

prêter usages

The verb prêter means to lend. The grammatical structure of the verb is as follows: prêter quelque chose à quelqu’un – to lend something to somebody. Here are some example sentences:

  • Je prête la voiture à Martin. I lend the car to Martin.
  • La banque me prête de l’argent. The bank lends me money.
  • Pourrais-tu me prêter ton vélo ? Could you lend me your bike?

Prêter has a few more usages:

  • Je prête toujours mon aid aux moments difficiles. I always offer my help during difficult times.
  • Cette salle se prête bien a un bar-mitzvah. This room lends itself well to a bar-mitzvah.

emprunter usages

Emprunter means to borrow. This is where things get confusing. Emprunter queque chose à quelqu’un means to borrow something from somebody. In essence, in French you ‘borrow something to somebody’. Example sentences:

  • J’emprunte 100 000 dollars à la banque. I borrow $100,000 from the bank.
  • Eric emprunte la voiture à Martin. Eric borrows the car from Martin.
  • Sylvie emprunte le livre à la bibliothèque. Sylvie borrows the book from the library.

Additional meanings of emprunter mean to take or follow:

  • J’emprunte un sentier escarpé pour monter la montagne. I take a steep path to climb the mountain.
  • L’écrivain emprunte des citations da la bible. The writer takes quotes from the bible.
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