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bring OR take?

The verbs "bring" and "take" have many different meanings, especially as phrasal verbs.

But both bring and take have one meaning that is very similar, and involves carrying or moving something from one place to another place. This causes confusion for learners because the only real difference between them is the direction of travel, in relation to the speaker.

bring and take

bring: carry something towards the speaker

take: carry something away from the speaker OR to another place

So, the real difference between bring and take is:

  • bring is for movement towards the speaker
  • take is for movement in any other direction
verb direct object indirect object
bring something
to the speaker
take something
to anywhere but not the speaker

Look at this sample situation. The boss says to her secretary:

  • Mary, please take this letter to the bank. They will give you some money. Take the money to the travel agent. They will give you some tickets. Then bring the tickets to me.
Note that the difference between bring and take is like the difference between come and go. (Go to the bank, then go to the travel agent, then come to me.)

Look at these example sentences with bring:

  • Waiter! Could you bring me some water please.
  • I'm so glad you could come. Have you brought your sister?
  • Do you mind bringing another chair from the room next door?
  • Come over here and bring your drink with you.
  • How embarrassing! I can't pay the bill because I didn't bring my wallet.
  • Class is over! Don't forget to bring your homework tomorrow.
  • I hope you like red wine. I brought a couple of bottles with me.
  • Some scientists believe that comets brought water to Earth.

Look at these example sentences with take:

  • When you go shopping you'd better not take your car. The traffic's awful.
  • Taxi! Can you take me to the airport?
  • Could you go into town and take this letter to the bank.
  • Why hasn't anybody taken this rubbish out?
  • Yesterday, Lucy took her car to the garage for a service.
  • She's not here. She's taking her son to the doctor.
  • They asked the police: "Where are you taking him?"
  • It was the Apollo 11 spacecraft that took the first humans to the Moon.
The normal rule is bring here and take there, from the speaker's point-of-view, and this is the important thing to understand. However, we do sometimes use them the other way round, usually when the speaker is looking at the situation from the listener's point-of-view. This typically happens in phone calls and emails, when the two people are in direct communication but different locations. Look at these emails:
  • I'm leaving Bangkok tonight. My flight lands in London at 6 tomorrow. Do you want me to bring some T-shirts?
  • Hi Fred. Awfully sorry, I took the office keys home with me by mistake. I'll bring them in tomorrow.
Check your understanding with our bring OR take Quiz

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