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My mother used to correct me all the time when I was younger about "bringing" a toy to a friend's house versus "taking" it. Which is correct, and why?

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Related (dupe?): Bring vs Take in American English –  RegDwigнt Nov 19 '10 at 11:51
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Your mother was pursuing the perfectly normal parental prerogative of trying to replace the language that you were happily using with your friends by a different one (which we might call "parents' English") in which "bring" had a more restrictive meaning. –  Colin Fine Nov 19 '10 at 15:21
    
@RegDwight: I agree, including the question mark. The other question is clearly focused on the distinction between American & British usage, but the answers don't all keep the distinction. –  Marthaª Nov 22 '10 at 22:02
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I am an Englishman who has worked in New York for eighteen years and the usage of 'bring' versus 'take' still grates on my ears. Simply put "I will take a bottle to my mother's house but I will bring it back with me if she has no use for it." or "I will take a towel to the beach but I will bring it back home with me." Recently on a trip back to the UK, I noticed the pervasive incorrect use of bring within the English conversation. It just goes to show where cross-pollination leads to. Oh well, English is defined as a living language. –  Peter Banks Oct 17 '13 at 6:01
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6 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Your mother is right.

It boils down to knowing the definitions of the words. The definition of bring from dictionary.com is:

to carry, convey, conduct, or cause (someone or something) to come with, to, or toward the speaker: Bring the suitcase to my house. He brought his brother to my office.

Bringing with involves coming to.

Taking with involves going away from.

When you were talking to your mother, your were going away from her. That is why it was correct to say that you were taking something with you.

If your were talking with your friend over the phone, it would be correct to use bringing, because you were going toward him.


Bringing or taking is relative to the (future, present, or past) presence or absence of a person at the destination to which something shall be, is, or has been brought or taken. This person is not the bringer/taker.

It could be a person to whom the bringer/taker tells what bringing or taking he/she shall do, is doing, or did.

It could also be a person who tells to a third person what bringing or taking the bringer/taker shall do, is doing, or has done.

If the person shall be, is, or was present at the destination while the bringer/taker shall be, is, or was on his/her way, bring is the appropriate word.

If the person shall be, is, or was absent from the destination while the bringer/taker shall be, is, or was on his/her way, take is the appropriate word

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Unfortunately, that dictionary definition is wrong, or rather, incomplete. It excludes the perfectly normal uses in "Let's have a party at Joe's place tonight. I'll bring the wine, you bring the food". "Bring" is normal, and "take" would be odd. The point is that it is carrying something towards where the speaker expects to be at the relevant time. –  Colin Fine Nov 19 '10 at 15:17
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@Colin - 'Take' is not odd at all. 'I'll take the wine. you take some food'. Makes perfect sense. It depends of the perspective of the conversation. Regardless of tense, if you are discussing what will happen in relation to where you are now, Take is used. If you are discussing in relation to your destination, Bring is used. There reality is that that perspective is not always apparent so either/both could be correct. –  CJM Nov 23 '10 at 11:42
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This is simply a matter of direction. You would bring towards but take away.

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One possible answer is that you "bring" things to the place you are now, and "take" things to the place to which you're going.

So you "take" the toy to your friend's house, but once you're there you can be said to have "brought" the toy along with you. It's pretty subtle though, I don't think it's an especially crucial difference!

ETA: I've just thought of a good example. Suppose you are in a room with your toy. Your mother could tell you "take it over there!" and then "bring it back over here!"... but the other way round would sound pretty odd.

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It's all a matter of perspective. It boils down to what's in the speaker's head (i.e., his perspective). For example, if my focus is on myself, I might say "I'll bring the beer with me." However, if our focus is on the party and its location, I might say, "Are you going to take beer?" I bring something along with me, but I take something to the destination.

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But I might also say "Who's bringing the beer?" even if the party is going to be elsewhere than my current location. "Who is taking the beer" sounds odd, or at least doesn't mean the same thing. –  Marthaª Nov 22 '10 at 22:06
    
Right, because your focus is on you and your pals, not on the party. This is precisely what I said. –  birdus Nov 23 '10 at 4:52
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In english the original meaning has been lost due to users bad use, so know it doesnt "sound" incorrect to say so, eventhough it is.

But if you take spanish as a example you will see that the difference between taking and bringing is crutial and cant be exchanged.

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@opinion I wish to correct you. The original meaning has only been lost in American English. I can tell you that the difference still exists in South African English. –  Farrel Jan 28 '12 at 21:55
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The bringing the beer to the party sentence is an excellent example but unfortunately it is used incorrectly by so many. All you have to consider is the perspective of the conveyor of the beer and the perspective of where they are moving it to. Consider the following sentences:

Let's go to the party and take some beer.

Where is the perspective of the speaker (Where they are at now? It doesn't matter where as long as they are not at the party.) Where is the beer being moved to? (To the party) Given these conditions the correct form is take.

The same people are now at the party. Great you brought the beer! Perspective (At the point of transference) It's a simple thing really but many people mess it up. Two people are packing for a trip. One asks the other: Are you bringing toothpaste? This is incorrect. Their perpective is at their house where they are packing and they will be transferring the toothpaste to their point of destination. The correct way to say it is: Are you taking tootpaste? When they get there they could then ask: Did you bring toothpaste?

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