bring & take

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Mack&Mack, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. Mack&Mack Senior Member

    Korea & Korean
    <<Composite thread created by merging relevant threads from December 2005, May 2006, December 2006 and November 2007>>

    Today I was reading a book and it said

    Jeff : Mom, I'm going out.

    Mother : Wait a mimute! You should bring an umbrella. It's been raining.

    Since I thought it should be "take" instead of "bring" I'm posing this question.

    Could anyone let me know what the answer is?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. dwipper Senior Member

    Iowa, U.S.
    U.S. English
    Generally, I think you are right. Personally, I would have used "take" instead of "bring" in that context. However, there is a lot of flexibility in using "take" or "bring."

    In this case it might help a little to think of it as "You should bring an umbrella (with you)." Although, if I read this sentence out of context, I would assume that the mother was going with the Jeff.
  3. Le Pamplemousse

    Le Pamplemousse Senior Member

    USA, English
    I would say they're interchangeable. Personally, I would use "take".
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As dwipper suggests, there is some difference between bring and take.

    A and B are at home together, wondering about the weather:
    A: I think you should bring an umbrella.
    ... A and B are going somewhere together.

    A: I think you should take an umbrella.
    ... B is going out, A is not.

    The difference is clearer in this example.
    A and B are out walking together when it begins to rain:
    A: Did you bring an umbrella?
    ... sensible question (assuming that B might have a concealed umbrella).

    A: Did you take an umbrella?
    ... a very unlikely question.
  5. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    You take an umbrella with you [to the store]. (an implied prep phrase)

    You bring an umbrella [to me]. (an implied indirect object).

    So although they are sometimes interchangeable, the distinction is whether or not you can imply (or state) an indirect direct object. If you can't, then you should use take.

    I think ;)
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    In the early Middle Ages, when I was taught English, there was supposed to be a clear distinction between bring and take. Even back then, however, most people ignored the lexicographers and grammarians, and used them helter-skelter.

    Bring, according to the old battle axe who wielded her stick at the front of the classroom, indicates movement toward a place that is somehow associated with the speaker. Take, by contrast, suggests movement away from such a place.

    I take my doubts to Panjandrum for resolution. I bring back erudition.

    Here's where it gets to be fun, and ambiguous. Do I take the Empress of India to lunch, or bring her to said repast? What about the masked ball that Timpeac is holding? Should I take or bring my pet sea lion with me?

    Perhaps it's time to take a powder. Other wiser foreros may bring this to a head, take it on the chin....I'll just take a back seat, or take five.
  7. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Where is the action directed? If it's toward you, use bring. If it's away, use take. But there are many circumstances in which this distinction does not apply. If we are going to the city, do we bring/take the camera? In these cases bring/take are probably interchangeable.
  8. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Romance languages, which, interestingly, do not seem to make this confusion, it's where you are that matters. If you are outside the city when you speak, you say that you take the camera (when you go to the city). If you are in the city, you say that you bring the camera (when you come to the city).

    Is there a name for this linguistic phenomenon, whereby the meaning of a verb becomes independent of the direction of motion? I'm reminded of unaccusative verbs, but it's not the same.
  9. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I have never mastered the bring/take distinction I hear is supposed to exist in English. However, interstingly for all that I have never confused anyone in English. In both Spanish and French I have confused people in the past by not using the correct equivalent. All this leads me to believe that the distinction is much less important in English than other languages.
  10. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    I think English is an odd mixture of the potential for extreme precision when we need it, combined with almost infinite flexibility and opportunity for literary license, that leaves us as speakers and readers able to fill in the blanks in our own mind (regardless of the accuracy of said blank filling) and make out or understand most expressions that are being made, adjusting for poor construction along the way (at least if we WANT to).

    With take vs bring, the gross concept is identical, so it's really just a matter of semantics. Pick the wrong one and we still understand perfectly, even if it sounds awkward.

    But then we get to our phrasal verbs. "I took over the remote control" and "I brought over the remote control" mean completely different things.
  11. soldado_del_rey New Member

    English, USA
    Often the distinction between the two is blurry in English. However, in some instances only bring is appropriate.
    Take me that glass of water.
    In this instance, take cannot substitute for bring. It must be:
    Bring me that glass of water.

    I cannot think of any examples in which take is the only acceptable word.
    In cases in which the action describes movement toward the speaker, bring must be used, in situations in which the action describes movement away from the speaker, they are generally interchangeable, though take is technically more correct. In formal writing, you would want to maintain the distinction and choose take over bring. In everyday use, this is not necessary.
  12. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Take that glass of water to your father.
    Can't be written as: Bring that glass of water to your father.

    They mean different things.

    The first one implies making a special trip to deliver something, the second implies adding an extra item of cargo to a trip which is already going to happen.

    The first one implies dispatching the child from one location (near the speaker) to another farther away (from the kitchen to the garage perhaps). The second one implies that the child is probably already in the same general vicinity (within earshot, perhaps near near the sink), and the speaker is nearer to the father (perhaps at the kitchen table).
  13. soldado_del_rey New Member

    English, USA
    I don't think that's quite it, in terms of distance between the subject and the indirect object.. I would say give is more appropriate than bring in that situation - both people in the same vicinity. The divison between bring and take is more a matter of direction of movement rather than static spatial relationship.

    Also, "Bring that glass of water to your father." does not sound incorrect to me, especially if the speaker is closer to the father than to the person being addressed.
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That is a wonderfully profound statement. It deserves to be printed on posters and hung on English Classroom Walls around the world.

    A special edition of the poster, with the parenthetical phrase illuminated in red and gold, should be stickied at the top of the English-Only forum as a warning to the occasional wilfully unreconstructed pedant who comes our way.
  15. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Cambridge advanced learner's: wilfully, US USUALLY willfully:)

    Does this give us the right to deconstruct wiley pedants? Bring them back to Earth, take them to task?
  16. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I think we're missing the significance of the fact that the speaker is the boy's mother. From her perspective he should bring along an umbrella, because he is not going to be far from her thoughts, and she is in some sense going to be accompanying him in spirit. "Take an umbrella" conjures the idea that he is leaving, getting out of his mother's sight, not giving her a thought.

    Also, I doubt if this woman is British, or learned her English from a long line of native speakers. I detect a bit of the immigrant, probably German, possibly the Yiddish subcategory thereof-- in her idiom. This is a woman whose "you should" is sometimes expressed "you should only," and whose "bring it" comfortably takes the adverbial with, sans prepositional object.
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    FFB will, shortly, reveal the mother's shoe size, the colour of her eyes, her star sign, and the name of her paternal grandmother.

    However, the comment about a maternal bring is particularly perceptive, and I have to confess that it must also carry those other maternal attributes if it is to take its fullest effect.
  18. slewis

    slewis Member

    Geneva, Switzerland
    UK (English)
    For me, his mother should definitely suggest that he takes the umbrella as he is going out (by implication without his mother) and therefore away from her.

    There are some circumstances in which I would interchange bring and take. And some in which I would not:

    Take has a sense of "away": either from or with. From is always take, with can often be substituted by bring. Take it away [from me] is unambiguous. Take it with you implies that you're leaving [from] me.

    Bring has a sense of "towards": either to or with. To is always bring, with can often be substituted by take. Bring it here [to me] is unambiguous. Bring it with you implies that you're coming to me.

    "Take her to school" if I'm not at school. "Bring her to school" if I am at school. But I can live with either if I'm planning to be at school later.


    PS Sorry that there are no long words in this answer.
  19. mjscott Senior Member

    If the fellow's telling his mother he's going out, then she's not going with him! Contrary to whether or not the deed was done by the mother in the entryway with the umbrella (a hazy, probably not-worth-the-space allusion to the board game CLUE), there is probably some sense as to what foxfirebrand said. The umbrella should be taken with the boy, not brought by the boy--unless Mom is also going out. I like foxfirebrand's loftiness of thought that Yiddish mothers from Germany never quite leave their children when their children leave them!
  20. nurdug51 Senior Member

    They didn't have to bring ( take? ) their food (along? / with them ?)? .... because there was this shop (you remember);) where they could buy anything they needed.
  21. maxiogee Banned

    Either would be fine
    bring with …or… take with

    I'd leave out the along.

  22. As Maxiogee said, Nurdug, either will do.

    My English ears would prefer "They didn't have to bring their food with them."

    "Notice: We shall be exploring the old city tomorrow. There is no need to bring any food with you as there is a shop where you can buy anything you need."

    (PM reply on
    its way soon.)
  23. deslenguada

    deslenguada Senior Member

    More or less they mean the same, sometimes one sounds better than the other in some occasions but which one would you say sounds better in the following context?

    to a shop assistant:
    "I'm bringing/taking this one" (I think it must be "take")

    and you can say:

    "bring me the shirt"
    "take him the umbrella"

    but you cannot say:

    "take me the shirt"
    "bring him the umbrella" ............ or can you? Do these ones sound odd to you or not?

    Thanks a lot. ;)
  24. difficult cuss Senior Member

    English England
    "I'm taking this one" yes
    "bring me the shirt" yes
    "take him the umbrella" yes
    "take me the shirt" no
    "bring him the umbrella" no/well perhaps you can, if someone were across the room and he had the umbrella and the recipient was sitting next to you, you could say it.
    That sounds fine to me...Anyone else?
  25. deslenguada

    deslenguada Senior Member


    Thanks, now I'm sure I knew/know how to use them ;)
  26. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    I'm glad about that. Bring and take give non-native speakers as much grief as anything I can think of.

    This may help people to remember which is which:

    Go and bring ('Go to the kitchen and bring me cuchu's crowbar').

    Come and take ('Come in here and take this computer away').
  27. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    I've noticed that American English speakers often use "bring" where other speakers of English use "take".

    In the following example, Monica asks Phoebe to give something to Rachael...

    Monica: Phoebe, can you bring this to Rachael. [something Monica has in her hand]

    Monica: Phoebe, you should bring Rachael some flowers. [something Monica does not have, and Monica is not with Rachael]

    In this context, I would always use take. I only use bring for something coming towards you. Whereas take is for something that is going away from you or going with you somewhere else.

    For example:

    Phoebe will take Rachel the flowers.
    I'm taking the flowers to Rachel.

    Bring me some flowers.
    I will bring them with me.

    Could someone please explain why AmE speakers use BRING in this way?
  28. quietdandelion

    quietdandelion Banned

    Good question! fauna.
    My eyes were never opened to this question before. Maybe it's because most of written English is pretty formal. I'm eager to know why, too.
  29. Blues Piano Man

    Blues Piano Man Senior Member

    Boulder, CO
    USA English
    As far as I know, AE speakers use bring and take as you do:

    Monica: Phoebe, can you take this to Rachael. [something Monica has in her hand]

    Monica: Phoebe, you should take Rachael some flowers. [something Monica does not have, and Monica is not with Rachael]

    Blues :)
  30. mplsray Senior Member

    In Kenneth G. Wilson's Columbia Guide to Standard American English, he says, in the article "bring 3, take (vv.),"

    "Where the directions are unspecified, unimportant, or equivocal, the words are frequently interchangeable: Let’s bring [take] our raincoats with us to the game."

    He identifies this as standard usage, despite purists objections to it. It is presumably this flexibility of bring and take in some circumstances that leads some people to say things like Phoebe, will you bring this to Rachael?
  31. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Blues: Thanks for your input, maybe it's regional then?

    Mplsray: Isn't the direction always specified [or at least heavily implied, even in your example]. It is odd that this would become "standard" [according to your source] in America and nowhere else - do you know why?
  32. mplsray Senior Member

    In Let's bring our coats to the game, the speaker and hearer are both going along with the coats.

    As for why American usage should be different from usage elsewhere, there's no real answer for this. This is true when comparing any two dialects.

    Standard usage is whatever usage educated speakers habitually use. Where I came from in Central Illinois, it was standard to refer to a green pepper as a mango. There's a history to this usage, but it is essentially irrelevant. Mango came to have that meaning in standard use because standard speakers started to use it that way and continued to do so.
  33. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Surely, this would lend itself to using take because the subject is taking something somewhere else where none of the hearers are at present?
  34. mplsray Senior Member

    While purists might object to Let's bring our coats to the game (as I indicated earlier), that does not make it any less standard.

    Kenneth G. Wilson's book is online. You might find it interesting to read his articles on "Standard Usage" and "Purists" to see where he is coming from.
  35. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Usage governs language, but purists are always right:)

    Good compromise. None of us are perfect.
  36. Blues Piano Man

    Blues Piano Man Senior Member

    Boulder, CO
    USA English
    That makes sense to me.

    So according to first quote above, if the context point of view (pov) is "the game," it's correct to say "..bring our coats to the game."

    If the context pov is somewhere else, e.g., home, the correct statement would be, "...take our coats to the game."

    Example 1 (pov = home):

    Wife to husband: "Let's go to the game today, Bob."
    "Okay, but make sure we remember to lock the front door, and let's take our coats."

    Example 2 (pov = game):

    Bob to friend on telephone: "Hey Bob, the wife and I are going to the game. If you want to go, too, remember to bring your coat. We're bringing ours."

    Does that sound right?

    Blues :)

    ps. Having said that, I can see how both the "bring" and the "take" in my examples could be swapped. But that would probably mean that the speaker would be changing the pov from the established context.

    For instance, if the wife said "...let's bring our coats," it means she has her mind focussed on being at the game. Maybe after talking about locking the door, her thoughts went ahead to the game, realized it would be cold, and then after a slight pause said, "... and let's bring our coats."

    Perhaps the bottom line is: if you hear someone say "bring" or "take" and it seems odd, you can interpret it as a clue to what pov they're thinking about.
  37. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    " You should X your coats when you Y "

    I always used and heard the following - if Y is the word GO then X will be "TAKE", while if Y is the word "COME", then X will be bring, with the SPEAKER's location being the point of reference, especially if the "when you Y" phrase is absent. Anything else still grates! In Japan the compound verb for "bring" is "come carrying" while the verb for "take" is "go carrying". If you can decide whether you are coming or going, you can figure out whether to bring or take something with you.

    I left England and moved to the US and now frequently hear "bring" and far less frequently "take", in general but am curious as to whether this is a strictly US evolution, as nzfauna suggests or it is simply a transition that is occurring everywhere. As Safire has it "When enough of us are wrong, we're right"!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2008
  38. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I have a yes/no answer to this which will prove inconclusive, I think. I heard this usage recently on the US sit-com Frasier, but in the mouth of a British character. It sounded very strange to me at the time. However, I've noticed that British characters in US shows often have speech habits that no native British speaker would have even if they'd lived in the US for decades (saying "route" to rhyme with "out" for example rather than "root") when, I presume, the producers think their Britishness might get in the way of comprehension so it's hard to know if this was meant to be an attempt at emulating British speak, US speak in the mouth of a British character, or simply idiosyncratic.
  39. sunyaer Senior Member


    You are going to government office to renew your passport. Your Mom reminds you to take the old passport with you to show to the office as this is a requirement for renewal.

    “Remember to bring the old passport with you, they’ll ask for that.”

    Your Mom probably is not going together with you. Even though the movement here is “moving away from your Mom’s perspective (home)”, “bring” still should be used instead of “take”, as your Mom’s focus is the destination - the government office, and therefore to which the reference point has been shifted.
    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  40. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I have always explained that we bring when we come and take when we go.

    Father: "I'm going to Paris."
    Son: "Oh, please take me with you!" (when you go there)
    Father phones his friends in Paris:
    "When I come to Paris I'll be bringing my son with me".

    According to this scheme, "remember to bring the old passport with you" doesn't sound right. Before the son leaves the house his mother will say "take", whether she is going with him or staying at home. Once they are at the office she will say, "Did you remember to bring your old passport with you? (or have we come here for nothing?)"
    This seems to me to be standard BE use, at least in England. I noticed that a colleague from N Ireland tended to use "bring" more often and from this thread I see that also Americans tend to make less distinction, saying both "bring" and "take" in association with "go". However, I don't think anyone makes the opposite substitution, saying "take" in association with "come".
  41. sunyaer Senior Member

    I am calling the government call centre to ask about what I should present to the office when I walk in to apply for my passport renewal. Please note that the call centre is not necessarily at the same location as the office where I am going to.

    What would the representative of the call centre say? Why?

    1. “Remember to take your old passport with you.” Or
    2. “Remember to bring your old passport with you.”
  42. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The representative will use 2, because you will be moving towards that speaker. This is a standard linkage, because the movement uses the position of either the speaker or the listener as origin or destination,

    You: I am going and will take it with me.
    She : He is coming and will bring it with him.
  43. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    As Einstein has said, you bring when you come and take when you go. But how do you know whether you are coming or going?

    The key is in the direction of movement at the moment of focus. We use come and bring when we are focusing on an arrival or a place en route, and we use go and take when our focus is on a departure:

    Take an umbrella when you go out. [You are leaving a house to go out.]
    Don't leave without taking an umbrella. [Departure.]
    If it rains before you get there, you'll wish you had brought an umbrella. [En route.]
    Don't come in if you haven't brought an umbrella. [Arrival.]

    It really depends on the speaker's focus, not ours.

    Your mother may think of it either way, though the context given makes take much more likely:

    Mother thinks— Before you leave, you have to decide to go and you have to remember to pick up the passport and take it with you.
    Or she thinks— When you get there, you will need to give them the passport you have brought. You will have it with you, of course, if you heed my warning to remember to bring it.

    Here is your passport. Remember to take it with you. They'll be asking for it. [Here, before you leave, is your passport.]
    They'll ask whether you have brought your passport with you. [When they ask, you will already have arrived.]
    They'll ask for your passport, so when you leave, take it with you. [Specifically when you leave ....]

    I hope this helps.

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