Bring vs. Take: What’s The Difference?

Learning languages can be a really exciting way to learn about a different culture, its country, and its people.  However, language can also pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn.  From complicated verb tenses to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply…in short, grammar is difficult.

English is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn just based on the fact that it tends to struggle with following most of its own rules.  It’s even difficult for native speakers! Part of the reason for this is that English borrows (or just completely steals) most of its grammar, prefixes, and new words from other languages.  English is an etymological mashup of several different languages which causes several common grammar mistakes.

One thing that makes English especially difficult to learn is the fact that English often employs homonyms, which are words that sound the same but have different meanings. These are very frequently confused words in English grammar. Also, different parts of speech, like nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, are often derived from one another, making the process of learning English very complicated in addition to different idioms and dialects like American English and British English. So depending on your point of view, someone in New York would say one thing while someone in London would say another! 

In this article, let’s explore the words bring and take, what they mean, learn their proper use, look for their synonyms, and learn their etymology and context.

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Definition of Bring and Take

The best way to learn how to incorporate words into your vocabulary is to learn what they actually mean.  In this case, it is important to define both words separately as their definitions are close to opposites.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word of the day bring is defined as, “to convey, lead, carry, or cause to come along with one toward the place from which the action is being regarded”, or “to cause to be, act, or move in a special way: such as”.  On the other hand, the word take is defined as “to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control, such as: to seize or capture, to get possession of, to move against, or to acquire by eminent domain”.  A secondary definition of the word take is “to catch or attack through the effect of a sudden force or influence”. 

 In all, there are twenty-nine definitions of the word bring and over fifty definitions of the word take that are considered acceptable in the dictionary.  However, at the end of the day,  what is considered culturally or colloquially acceptable may differ based on who your audience is.   

What Part of Speech Are the Words Bring and Take?

Another important step in trying to understand how to use a word correctly is learning how to use a word in a sentence.  More specifically, it is important to learn where to use a word in a sentence.  In English, words can be used to describe people, places, things, actions, and states of being.  However, modifier words like adjectives for nouns and adverbs for verbs can actually add further meaning and definition to words that describe things.  For example, saying “the truck drove” tells something, but saying “the red truck drove quickly” tells you even more about both the truck and the specific action and type of action it was taking.

Both words in question (bring and take) are verbs, and they both convey action.   The word bring is usually a positive or additive verb, where the word take is a negative or subtractive verb.  One conveys a total increase in something, while the other conveys things being removed.  

How Are Bring and Take Used in Context?

Another great way to learn how to properly use a word is to explore its context. Here are some examples of the words bring and take in context.

The use of bring:

  • What are you going to bring to the party at work tomorrow? 
  • What do you think you bring to the table at this company?  Why should we hire you?
  • We should bring extra napkins on the picnic because you never know when you’ll need to clean up a mess.

The use of take:

  • What did he take with him when he left on Friday night?  Stuff is definitely missing.
  • Did you take your medicine today?
  • Where are you going to take that trip?

Where Do Bring and Take Come From?  History and Etymology

The words bring and take, like many verbs in the modern English language, actually come from western European languages such as German or Dutch.  On the other hand, most types of nouns in English actually come from ancient languages such as Latin or Greek.

The root word for bring, according to EtymOnline, is bringan, and comes from Old English and was derived from Old German.  The root word for take is tacan, and also comes from the Old English.  Both words were derived from several hundred years of adaptations through several other languages, which explains why their past tenses, brought and took, are so irregular.  They do not follow the typical pattern for creating past tense in English, which is adding an “-ed” suffix.  Instead, their spelling is completely changed.    

In Summary

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that culture drives language, not the other way around.  The frequency of use of a certain word in a certain context with a certain definition is what eventually determines whether or not that word is considered “proper” or not, so it is important to know your audience and to be able to determine who you are speaking to.  Learning writing tips, studying word lists, and communicating directly with your audience will enable you to better understand when to use certain words correctly.