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“Bring” vs. “take” in American English

I used to have what I thought was a good grasp on using the words 'bring' and 'take' until I moved to the south. Now all I seem to hear is 'bring' - whether it is in the context of 'to me', 'to you', or to somewhere else with me. For example,

Shall I bring it to work tomorrow?

I always thought that if I was not presently in the place that the item would end up, then I would use the word 'take'. Or does it depend on the location of the person to whom you are talking?

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    You may find the answer here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/3131/… – Barrie England Jan 7 '12 at 12:08
  • Barrie... You are very helpful! Cheers. – Roger S Pearce Jan 7 '12 at 12:21
  • Assuming you're talking to a colleague whom you meet only at work (and in particular will meet tomorrow), "bring" is the natural word in that context, and "take" would sound very unnatural to me. (As if you're ignoring the fact that your colleague exists, or something.) For instance, in that context you'd say "when I come to work tomorrow…" and not "when I go to work tomorrow…". – ShreevatsaR Jan 7 '12 at 15:03
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    In the south you will need to understand the three tenses of "take": bring, brang, and brung, such as "I brung him to the party." :) – xpda Jan 7 '12 at 16:59

Bring has the same relation to take as come has to go. 'Bring those books here' and 'Come here' both describe movement towards the speaker. 'Take those books over there' and 'Go over there' both describe movement away from the speaker.

That, at least, is the text book explanation. In reality, things aren’t always quite so clear. If two people are talking about what they’ll need at work tomorrow, one might very well say 'Shall I bring it to work tomorrow?' because mentally they have already placed themselves in the workplace and they envisage the item as coming towards them.

That said, it may well be that the varieties of English spoken in the southern United States do use bring where other varieties of the language use take. That isn’t ‘incorrect’. It’s just different.

  • I agree but I can't stand that you're telling me that I'm correct... But it doesn't matter because I live in a place where the people speak 'different'. I use the word 'different' because they don't place the 'ly' at the end of the word many times. I suppose that because many southerners do that, it must be correct! Where does it all end? When the English language is reduced to a series of grunts and texting shorthand in the name of evolution? By the way, I know my English is far from perfect but I believe it's important to want to know the correct words. – Roger S Pearce Jan 7 '12 at 13:09
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    If you have one person who speaks incorrectly, he's wrong, and you can attempt to correct him (although it easily might not work). If you have 80 million people who all speak incorrect, it's a losing battle; you might as well just throw up your hands and declare that they're all doing it right. (As far as they're concerned, they are.) – Peter Shor Jan 7 '12 at 14:07
  • @RogerSPearce: FWIW,‘different’ was used as an adverb in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by such well respected writers as Sarah Fielding, Fanny Burney and Charles Kingsley. – Barrie England Jan 7 '12 at 15:41
  • I believe that what's going on with adverbs in the American South is that adjectives are allowed to replace adverbs under certain circumstances. I don't know whether anybody has figured out the exact rules for this. – Peter Shor Jan 7 '12 at 19:32
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    @Roger: the use of adjectives instead of adverbs in certain grammatical circumstances exists in General American. It may exist in the U.K. as well, but definitely not to the extent that it does in American English. My impression that this trend is more advanced in the South than in the Northeast, although I don't know of any studies of this confirming my impression; so in this aspect, I suspect Southern English is even farther from British English than the rest of America is. – Peter Shor Jan 8 '12 at 18:50

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