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Is it appropriate to say "Can you borrow me your ax?" instead of "Can you lend me your ax?" I hear the prior usage in the Upper Midwest quite often.

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Then someone should learn the people in the Upper Midwest better English. –  Peter Shor Mar 27 '13 at 20:07
    
Yeah, they should learn 'em real good! –  rhetorician Mar 27 '13 at 20:36
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Ahem - representing the upper Midwest (but not the upper peninsula of Michigan - sorry Yoopers!), that is not appropriate - I don't care how often you hear it. "May I borrow your ax?" or "Can you lend me your ax?" are the two options and never the twain shall meet! :-) –  Kristina Lopez Mar 27 '13 at 21:07
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closed as general reference by tchrist, Carlo_R., kiamlaluno, FumbleFingers, Hellion Mar 28 '13 at 14:10

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1 Answer

It's appropriate if the person to whom you ask the question 1) understands you; 2) would ask the same question of you if your roles were reversed; and 3) would not correct your usage by saying condescendingly "Do you mean 'lend me your axe?'"

Seriously, all people everywhere have both formal and informal ways of talking to each other. Who is to say what is or is not appropriate. Appropriateness is highly dependent on context. What is appropriate in one context may not be appropriate in another context.

Americans frequently confuse the terms lend, loan, borrow, and their cognates. It is correct to say, "I lent him some money," but not "I loaned him some money." The money that is lent is called a loan. "May I borrow your ax?" is proper, whereas "Can you borrow me your ax?" is, as you point out, region-specific and, while incorrect, is appropriate informally. A student, on the other hand, who asks an English professor, "Can you borrow me that textbook?" is simply looking for trouble!

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Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate that you turned the discussion to what's appropriate rather than what is merely correct or by the book. Appropriateness is a refreshing diversion as the answer moves from quantitative to qualitative and from black and white to grey. –  mkumka Mar 27 '13 at 20:49
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With buy, the ditransitive usage "Can you buy me an axe?" is permitted. Perhaps a mimicking "Can you borrow me an axe?" (off Fred, say) may creep in. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 27 '13 at 20:55
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@EdwinAshworth, while that is true, the meaning would actually be different - it would imply that you wanted someone to borrow an ax from someone else on your behalf. Though it's folksy and somewhat humorous, AND most people would probably know what you meant, there is some ambiguity in that particular request. –  Kristina Lopez Mar 27 '13 at 21:27
    
Mostly when I run into Americans who get confused on the meaning of lend, loan and borrow I find that they misconstrue it to mean give. :-) –  Jim Mar 28 '13 at 3:40
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