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Linguistics

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What is the Difference Between Bring and Take?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated: May 23, 2024

The difference between bring and take, two important verbs, is often confused. The main point is that you should look at these verbs in reference to your or another speaker’s location. When the speaker wants something to come to him, he may ask another person to “bring” that item. A woman hosting a dinner might ask someone to bring an appetizer. The speaker is referencing her own place, or wherever she’s holding the dinner as a place close to her. The appetizer will be brought to her.

Here’s where the difference between bring and take gets a little confusing. From the perspective of the person being asked to bring an appetizer by the woman hosting dinner, they are taking the appetizer to a distance away from them (the location of the dinner). When you’re asked to bring an appetizer to an event, you might tell someone else that you’re taking an appetizer to the dinner. You are not, in many cases bringing an appetizer, until you arrive at the host’s destination and announce, “I’ve brought the appetizer.” You wouldn’t want to use: “I’ve taken the appetizer,” when you get to the host’s destination, unless you want to worry him or her that you’re spiriting away their food. Yet you could tell the host, if you’re both in the kitchen, “I’ve taken the appetizer into the dining room,” since you’ve removed the appetizer to a location different from the one where you and the host are.

However, here’s the fun part which often gets people very muddled about the difference between bring and take. If you’re talking on the phone with the woman who wants the appetizer, you won’t ask her, “What should I take to the dinner?” You would ask her, “What shall I bring?” This is because you are viewing the action from her perspective and her location. You might also ask, “May I bring a guest? “Is there anything you’d like me to be bring?” Though from your perspective, you’d be taking something to the dinner, if you stay in conversation with the woman, you discuss it from her perspective and her location.

When two or more parties are viewing the action from the same perspective, that a thing is being “brought” to their location, regardless of whether that location is the same, the things is “brought,” not taken. Another example of the difference between bring and take may be helpful.

Suppose two businessmen are setting off to a meeting together where they have to present a lecture. If they’re both going to the location for the meeting, one might say to the other, “Don’t forget to bring the notes.” This is because the two businessmen are both going together, and the notes will remain with them, essentially at their location at all times. And of course, when you get to the meeting, another anxious coworker might ask, “Did you bring the notes?”

Now say only one businessman is setting off for his business meeting, while the other is staying somewhere else and not attending the meeting. As the businessman going to the meeting is leaving, the businessman who is staying says, “Don’t forget to take the notes.” The notes are “leaving” the businessman not attending the meeting and are viewed from his perspective. When the two are traveling together, they’re doing so with the notes and viewing the subject from the final location where the notes are needed.

Thus the difference between bring and take largely depends upon the perspective from which you are considering the matter. If you’re removing something to another location, from your perspective you’re normally “taking it,” from starting to final location. If you’re asking for something to come to you, or are looking from the viewpoint of the person or place at the destination, you’ll be “bringing it.” When you ask someone to get you something, you ask him or her to bring it, but when you ask someone to remove something you ask him or her to take it. It all depends on how you’re viewing the conversation, and from whose perspective you view it.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon929988 — On Feb 03, 2014

Some Brits always accuse Americans, but if you have read Harry Potter you know J. K. Rowling gets bring and take confused all the time. She also misuses "try and" instead of "try to".

By anon359286 — On Dec 16, 2013

The problem is that in any statement there may be one or more interpretations of where "here" and "there" are. Take, for example, the question "Will you _____the car for an oil change?" If the speaker is you and you're asking your mate, the correct word is "take." But if you're on the phone and the service man is asking you, the correct word is "bring."

When all you see is the typed words without context, you won't know which one is correct.

By anon311126 — On Dec 29, 2012

I'm from the UK and I've just been watching several US based shows, Hell on Wheels and Supernatural, and I noticed in both that they don't so much confuse "bring" and "take" as they simply do not use "take" at all.

It's so bizarre that Americans seem not to understand the difference, but then again I just saw a American arguing on IMBD that Laura and Lara are pronounced the same way.

The sad thing is that due the proliferation of US based television shows, which are otherwise very good, I'm seeing more and more Brits bastardising their language. A fried of mine has gone so far as to start pronouncing the letter Z, zed in the UK, as zee. This is after 33 years of saying zed.

By anon284750 — On Aug 11, 2012

The US show "Friends", particularly the character, Ross, is regularly guilty of misusing bring/take. I have to take things into the lounge to throw at the screen whenever he does.

By anon130883 — On Nov 30, 2010

I can't believe people get these wrong these days. It's so simple. Americans in movies and tv get it wrong all the time. Only Americans, and they are probably infecting the UK.

To answer Andrew McIntosh : Take the sentences "A few minutes' walk brought us to the station" and "A few minutes' walk took us to the station".

The first one is telling the story from the perspective of the story happening as it is being told. The second one is telling ti in past-tense, recounting it and emphasizing that it happened in the past.

By anon112781 — On Sep 22, 2010

A easy distinction is that "take" associates with "going" and "bring" associates with "coming".

Two people standing together, one says "I'm taking this to John," he's going to John

At the same time he might call John on the phone and say "I'm bringing this" because from John's pov, he is coming.

Or a parent might say, "Bring that back from school, when you come home", but the teacher would say, "Take that when you go home."

By anon92919 — On Jun 30, 2010

Thank you!

By Andrew McIntosh — On Jun 09, 2010

I just had the hardest time trying to explain the difference between bring and take in another context.

Take the sentences "A few minutes' walk brought us to the station" and "A few minutes' walk took us to the station".

Both are correct, but I had a fellow (Japanese) teacher trying to get me to explain the difference over the past three days. I've run out of ideas! Apparently some of the students are worrying their heads over it and aren't satisfied with my explanations.

By anon77822 — On Apr 15, 2010

The main problem: The teachers don,t understand how to speak our language.

By anon68914 — On Mar 05, 2010

Yeah and thank you! And it's not only the news media or famous people who are abusing grammar and usage. When my children were in school and brought home the teachers' instruction sheets, I would correct them with a red pencil before sending them back to school. One teacher said he was a math teacher and not an English teacher.

By anon60919 — On Jan 17, 2010

More frequently, of late, speakers confuse the proper use of words such as "bring"/"take" and others. Even more annoying is the current overuse of "myself", as speakers are incapable of deciding between "I" and "me", while "whom" is practically obsolete.

Efforts to teach proper language skills to the younger generations seem to be in vain, with news anchors, actors and sports figures modelling deplorable usage. Thank you for backing proper usage.

By anon58660 — On Jan 03, 2010

Excellently put. It should be noted that in US English there is an alarming frequency of misuse which seems to be resulting in a 'use-them-as-you-like' attitude and this appears to have infiltrated British English too. I've always adopted a 'bring it here, take it there' policy with language students, but your comment on perspective is something I should pick up on.

By anon58136 — On Dec 30, 2009

At last! A site confirming I'm not going mad! Everyone here in the UK appears to have swapped these two words round recently, I thought it must be me going mad.

By anon51506 — On Nov 06, 2009

This doesn't get so confused in the UK where I am from. I have only ever heard bring and take mixed up here in Canada. I thought maybe it was a North American form of English.

By anon48931 — On Oct 16, 2009

so that means bring my guitar home is wrong? it should be take my guitar home?

By anon48063 — On Oct 09, 2009

Thank you for the best, the most clear explanation of bring/take I have read so far. This confirms to me that I have been correct in my usage of these two little words all along. Someone needs to bring this to the current various media, as the usage of bring is often "just wrong"

By anon44623 — On Sep 09, 2009

I've been arguing with my brother for years that the correct meaning of bring/take are in this article. Thank you for confirming that big sisters are usually right!

By anon36068 — On Jul 09, 2009

thank you

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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