My mother used to correct me all the time when I was younger when I would talk about bringing a toy to a friend’s house instead of taking it there.
Which is correct, and why?
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
This is simply a matter of direction. You would bring towards but take away.
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.
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.
In English the original meaning has been lost due to bad use, so now it doesn't sound incorrect to say so even though it is.
But if you take Spanish as an example you will see that the difference between taking and bringing is crucial and can't be used interchangeably.
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?
Yikes !!! The whole discussion sounds weird. I grew up in Newfoundland,where our teachers told us that we could use American or UK spelling etc.,just not two different ones in the same sentence,paragraph,or whatever(for the same word,I mean).I was an honors student(or should I use the French spelling of honours?),and have never been contradicted on my use of bring/take.....until recently when a 70-year old friend started "correcting" me.He'd bought something and it wasn't working,so I said to bring it back to the store.....he replied that I must say....take it back to the store....and explained why. Seventy years of being well-educated and very literate.....and I have never even heard of this distinction. I do use both words,but just by automatic feel,not by consciously choosing one or the other. For most,not all,but most purposes, I really cannot see the difference. I will note that since 1966 I have lived in Australia....25 years in Sydney....no questioning re my use of the word "b ring"....in Brisbane area from 1991 on,and a few times now my usage has been "corrected". So maybe there are national and regional differences.
Is there some reason most people seem totally unwilling to use the word take? I heard the ultimate in silliness today when a radio newsperson said that the new Orion spacecraft “will be used to bring astronauts to Mars.”
The misuse of bring in this way used to be (40 years ago) the sign of someone from the New York area, but now it is nation-wide. In fact, is transnational.
All online grammar guides still point out the difference, but no one seems to care.