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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: How do I use the word leihen in German?
Leihen means both “to lend” and “to borrow.” So how do you know when which one is being used?
The easiest way to tell is using these two different expressions -- sich etwas leihen, “to borrow something,” and jemandem etwas leihen, “to lend someone something.”
Let’s take a look at the pronouns. In the first sentence, the subject – I, you, he, her and so on – will be related to the subject, “something” and the same corresponding pronouns will be used. So, for example, if you want to say, “I borrow something,” then the sentence would be Ich leihe mir etwas. Here, the word ich means, “I” and corresponds with mir, literally translating to “me.” This is the same for all pronouns in German including “you” or du/dir and so on. You can check out a full conjugation chart in the lesson notes.
If you want to use the expression jemandem etwas leihen, meaning “to lend something” then the subject and the object are not related, and you’ll be using two different pronouns. For example, Ich leihe ihm etwas meaning “I lend him something.” In this sentence, the pronouns ich, “I” and ihm “him” are different, so the listener knows that the speaker means “lend.”
Let’s do some examples so you can learn how to make sentences using “borrow” and “lend” correctly.
Let’s first do an example with “borrow.” Ich leihe mir einen Film aus der Videothek. This means “I borrow a movie from the video store.” Here, the corresponding pronouns are ich and mir and both refer to “I.” Therefore, we know this sentence is using “borrow.”
Now, let’s do one with “lend.” Er leiht ihr ein Buch. “He lends her a book.” Here, the pronouns are different, so we know this sentence is using “lend.”
Now, let’s do a tricky one. Ich leihe dir ein Kleid und du leihst mir einen Rock. “I lend you a dress and you lend me a skirt.” In this sentence, ich and dir and du and mir are different non-corresponding pronouns referring to “I” and “you.” If you want to change the sentence to “borrow,” it will sound like this-- Du leihst dir ein Kleid von mir und ich leihe mir einen Rock von dir. “You borrow a dress from me and I borrow a skirt from you.” In this case, du and dir and ich and mir correspond, changing the sentence to “borrow” while still meaning the same thing.
How was it? If you’re still having a little trouble, remember that, while leihen can be used for both “lend” and “borrow” verleihen only means “to lend” and ausleihen only means “to borrow.”
Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”