“I am having a lot of difficulty with how to express lending and borrowing in Spanish.” – Real Fast Spanish Subscriber.
While both ‘lending’ and ‘borrowing’ are common verbs in English, part of the challenge with these verbs in Spanish is there is no direct translation for the English verb ‘to borrow’.
If you want to express the idea of ‘borrowing’ in Spanish, you’ll either need to rearrange the sentence to use the verb for ‘lending’ or combine the Spanish adjective for ‘borrowed’ (prestado) with one of the Spanish verbs pedir or tomar.
In this post, you’ll learn all about how to express ‘lending’, ‘loaning’, and ‘borrowing’ in Spanish including how to use the verb prestar, the adjective prestado, the noun préstamo, and an important phrase with prestar.
A quick note on the English verbs – ‘to lend’ vs ‘to loan’ vs ‘to borrow’
Before we get into the Spanish, we need to start by talking about the English verbs ‘to lend’, ‘to loan’ and ‘to borrow’.
We need to start here because it is fairly common for English speakers to make mistakes with these verbs. This, in turn, makes these verbs harder to translate and understand in Spanish.
So, firstly, ‘lending’ involves ‘giving’ something to someone with the expectation that you will get it back. For example:
I will lend you my coat because it’s cold and you don’t have one with you.
Moreover, ‘loaning’ is completely synonymous with ‘lending’, and we can easily replace ‘lend’ in the above sentence with ‘loan’.
In contrast, ‘borrowing’ involves ‘getting’ something from someone with the intention that you will give it back. For example:
I’m borrowing this television from a friend while he is travelling overseas.
Think of ‘lending’ and ‘loaning’ as being synonymous with ‘giving’, and ‘borrowing’ as being synonymous with ‘getting’.
The common mistake that will make translating these ideas into Spanish a little more difficult is when the verb ‘to lend’ gets used where it should be ‘to borrow’. For example:
lend your pen for a minute? ⊗
In this example, the speaker is ‘getting’ a pen and since ‘getting’ is synonymous with ‘borrow’, this sentence needs to be:
Can I borrow your pen for a minute?
Or, alternatively, you can rearrange the subject of the question and ask to be ‘given’ the pen.
Can you lend me your pen for a minute?
Now that we have covered the English, let’s look at the Spanish.
Prestar – To lend or loan something to someone
The Spanish verb prestar is equivalent to the English verbs ‘to lend’ or ‘to loan’.
Moreover, just like the English verbs, you will need to use prestar when someone is ‘giving’ something to someone with the expectation they will get it back.
Also, since you lend something ‘to someone’, this means you will often need an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, etc.) when you use prestar.
Here are some examples:
English: I can’t lend you my car this week because I need it.
Español: No puedo prestarte mi coche esta semana porque lo necesito.
English: Can you lend me that magazine? I want to show it to my friend.
Español: ¿Me puedes prestar esa revista? Quiero mostrársela a mi amigo.
English: I’m reading an amazing book, I’m going to lend it you next week.
Español: Estoy leyendo un libro increíble, te lo voy a prestar la semana que viene.
English: I would love to lend my support to this wonderful cause.
Español: Me encantaría prestar mi apoyo a esta maravillosa causa.
Prestado – Something ‘borrowed’
As I mentioned in the introduction, there is no direct translation for the verb ‘to borrow’ in Spanish.
Instead, you need to rearrange the sentence to use prestar to say ‘to lend’, or you can use the adjective prestado (the translation of the English adjective ‘borrowed’) in combination with the verbs pedir or tomar.
English: Can I borrow some money?
Español: ¿Me prestas dinero?
Español: ¿Puedo pedir prestado dinero?
I will talk about the difference between ‘pedir prestado’ and ‘tomar prestado’ in the next section.
But, for now, think of ‘pedir prestado’ as a way of asking someone to make an item ‘borrowed’. This is the closest translation you’ll find in Spanish for ‘to borrow’.
Here are some examples with ‘pedir prestado‘:
English: My mobile is out of battery. Can I borrow yours?
Español: Mi móvil se quedó sin batería. ¿Te puedo pedir prestado el tuyo?
English: I borrowed the money from my parents.
Español: Les pedí prestado el dinero a mis padres.
Note the use of the Spanish preposition a to say ‘from’ someone.
Of course, you can also use the Spanish adjective prestado just like the English adjective ‘borrowed’.
English: Did you buy that dress or is it borrowed?
Español: ¿Compraste ese vestido o es prestado?
English: I don’t want to live in an apartment with borrowed furniture.
Español: No quiero vivir en un apartamento con muebles prestados.
Pedir prestado vs tomar prestado
I’ve mentioned in past that I rarely publish an article without talking about the most subtle aspects of the post with a Spanish native (either a teacher in our Spanish school, or a friend). In this case, this question led to a long discussion that I will attempt to summarise here.
There is a very subtle difference between pedir prestado and tomar prestado that is difficult to express in English without additional information.
Moreover, there is a lot of overlap between these two Spanish phrases which means that in certain situations they are synonymous. That said, we can use tomar prestado in a slightly wider set of uses than pedir prestado.
When you say pedir prestado, you are indicating that you have ‘asked’ someone if you can borrow something. This phrase specifically highlights that someone was asked for the borrowed item at some point in time.
In contrast, when you say tomar prestado, you are not explicitly stating that someone was asked if an item could be borrowed. In other words, you could be highlighting that the borrowed item was potentially ‘taken’ without the person knowing about it or providing permission, or you are simply pointing out that an item was borrowed and whether permission was given or not is irrelevant.
English: I only borrowed it for a day, they will never know it was gone.
Español: Sólo lo tomé prestado por un día, nunca sabrán que se ha ido.
English: We borrowed the money so we will have to pay it back.
Español: Tomamos prestado el dinero así que tendremos que devolverlo.
English: I borrowed their car without asking, they are going to be really angry.
Español: Tomé prestado su coche sin pedir permiso, se van a enfadar mucho.
In this last example, I’ve specifically said ‘sin pedir permiso‘ which highlights the importance of the alternative phrase with tomar because ‘pedí prestado’ simply wouldn’t work in this sentence.
Préstamo – A loan
The Spanish noun préstamo is equivalent to the English noun ‘loan’.
Whenever you would use ‘loan’ in English, you can simply use préstamo in Spanish.
Here are some examples:
English: I need to ask you for a loan.
Español: Te necesito pedir un préstamo.
English: I enjoyed the book, thanks for the loan.
Español: Disfruté el libro, gracias por el préstamo.
English: We had to take out a second loan to buy the house.
Español: Tuvimos que sacar un segundo préstamo para comprar la casa.
English: We paid off our loan this week. Shall we celebrate it tonight?
Español: Hemos pagado nuestro préstamo esta semana. ¿Lo celebramos esta noche?
An important phrase with prestar
There is a Spanish phrase that came to mind while writing this post and I decided to include it because it is really useful.
When you need to ‘pay’ attention to something in Spanish, you actually need to ‘lend’ your attention.
English: To pay attention.
Español: Prestar atención.
Here are some examples:
English: You have to pay attention to this woman, she has some incredible ideas.
Español: Tienes que prestarle atención a esta mujer, tiene algunas ideas increíbles.
English: I know you are tired but please try to pay attention.
Español: Sé que estás cansado, pero por favor trata de prestar atención.
English: I was paying attention throughout the whole presentation, but I still don’t know what they were talking about.
Español: Estuve prestando atención durante toda la presentación, pero todavía no sé de lo que hablaban.
English: He paid particularly close attention to today’s news.
Español: Prestó atención especial a las noticias de hoy.
Note from this last example you can add emphasis to this phrase with especial.
Lending and borrowing are useful ideas to express when you are conversing in Spanish but, of course, you’ll need to be careful with prestar, prestado and préstamo.
When you next get an opportunity, see if you can ask someone if you can lend something from them with prestar, or talk about something borrowed with prestado, or even mention the last time you borrowed something without asking permission with tomar prestado.
How else can you use prestar, prestado, or préstamo to express leaning and borrowing in Spanish?