Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears

Assassination of Julius Caesar.png

The title to this post is a famous line from Shakespeare’s play: Julius Caesar. The Roman leader, Julius Caesar, is murdered (as shown in the above picture), and afterwards Mark Antony tries to speak to the angry crowd, beginning with these famous words. But it reminds me of a problem I often hear in class regarding: to lend and to borrow something (usually money).

Students often mix these words up, making wrong sentences such as:

  • He lent the money from the bank.friends romans countrymen lend me your ears
  • I can borrow it to you, if you want.friends romans countrymen lend me your ears
  • Can I lend some money?friends romans countrymen lend me your ears

The trouble is that, in Chinese, you basically say the same for both: ‘jie chen’. In English, however, I

lend the money [to you].

And you

borrow the money [from me].

By the way, ‘loan’ is the noun from the verb, ‘to lend’. So, when you borrow money from the bank, you are getting a loan. Finally, you must ‘pay back’ or ‘return’ the money.

So, when Mark Antony asks the people to lend their ears to him, it means he wants to borrow their ears, which is just an interesting way of saying: ‘Everyone, listen to me!’ Got it?