Loan vs. Lend – What’s the Difference?

If you are applying for a loan from the bank, you will want to ensure that your writing is impeccably professional. Proper word choice is an important part of formal writing.

English has many words that refer to the borrowing of goods and money. Two of the most common words that apply to this context are loan and lend. Do they mean the same thing? Or, are there specific circumstances in which one or the other is more appropriate?

Continue reading for an explanation of the differences between these two words.

What is the Difference Between Loan and Lend?

In this article, I will compare loan vs. lend. I will use each word in an example sentence to demonstrate its proper context and meaning.

Plus, I will reveal a useful mnemonic that can help you remember if loan or lend is the correct choice for your writing.

When to Use Loan

loan versus lend What does loan mean? Loan is a noun that means something that one lends, with the expectation that will be returned.

  • I asked the bank for a loan to start a bakery, but I did not have any collateral.
  • “What will happen if I cannot repay my student loan?” the freshman asked.
  • “Consider the motorcycle a long-term loan,” said Chet. “Keep it safe for me while I’m in Spain.”
  • Auto lenders are scaling back loans to subprime borrowers but loosening other terms in a bid to keep loan volume going. –The Wall Street Journal

To see if loan can be a verb, continue reading.

When to Use Lend

Definition of lend definition and definition of loan definition What does lend mean? Lend is a verb that means to grant someone the use of something with the expectation that it will be returned.

Here are some example sentences,

  • “I would lend Bryan my tools, because I know that he will return them,” said Gary.
  • If you lend money to your family members, be prepared for subsequent conversations about why they haven’t given it back yet.
  • You should never lend money that you do not have.

Lend is also used figuratively to mean to suggest or to add, especially in reference to appearances or qualities.

For example,

  • Wearing an elegant watch can lend a touch of formality to your appearance.
  • Experience with death does not lend wisdom to physicians any more than to undertakers. –Bernard Lown
  • My hope is that the perspective I lend here can help the brave participants, and you, to transcend the diet mentality and land on a way of eating, a lifestyle, that is ultimately sustainable and satisfying beyond this month-long challenge. –The Washington Post

In this figurative sense, lend, and only lend, is the correct choice.

Lend vs. Loan: Key Differences

Define lend and define loan The confusion between these two words is whether or not loan can be used as a verb.

In strict usage, loan is the noun, and lend is the verb.

In other words, I apply for a loan from a bank. The bank then lends me the money.

Style guides differ on whether or not loan can be used as a verb.

Garner’s Modern American English and The Chicago Manual of Style state that loan can only be used as a verb when dealing with money (as distinguished from the lending of things, cars, plates, books, etc.).

  • The bank would not loan me the money.
  • The bank would not lend me the money.

In this case, both are accepted.

In other cases, however, the traditional rules would apply.

  • Will you lend me your car?


  • Will you loan me your car?

The AP Stylebook prefers the traditional usage across the board.

  • Loan is a noun.
  • Lend is a verb.

Ultimately, loan is on its way to becoming fully accepted as a verb—save the figurative sense (see below). But, in the meantime, it would be wise to adhere to the traditional distinctions between lend and loan—at least in your professional writing.

to loan or to lendOne last note: as was mentioned in the above section, the figurative sense of lend cannot be substituted with the verb loan.

To take our example,

  • Experience with death does not lend wisdom to physicians any more than to undertakers.

-cannot become-

  • Experience with death does not loan wisdom to physicians any more than to undertakers.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Lend and loan refer to similar concepts. However, in strict usage, lend is a verb, whereas loan is a noun.

To help you remember this, remember that lend is spelled with the letter E, like the word verb. Likewise, loan is spelled with the letter O, like noun.


Is it lend or loan? Lend and loan refer to similar concepts, but they are different parts of speech.

  • Lend is a verb.
  • Loan is a noun.

Although loan sometimes appears as a verb, too, this usage is not yet fully accepted. In formal writing, you should use loan only as a noun.

Since lend and verb are both spelled with the letter E, and loan and noun are both spelled with the letter O, you should have no trouble remember when to use each of these words.

Remember, despite common mistakes, these words are not interchangeable. Be sure to check this site any time you have a question about other commonly misused words.