The words loan and loaned are the present and past tenses of to loan. Lend and lent are the present and past tenses of to lend. As verbs, loan and lend are often used interchangeably. For example, “A bank loans people money to buy a home. It also lends borrowers money to buy a car.”
Loan and lend also have identical meanings when they’re used in the past tense. For instance, you could say, “The bank loaned me money at six percent interest,” or “The bank lent me the money at 6 percent interest.” Either one is correct.
Loan, is typically used in the context of someone supplying something to another person. It can be used as either a verb or a noun. As a noun, it refers to a sum of money that’s provided on the condition that it’s to be paid back. For example: “Her friend was kind enough to give her a loan of $100.”
Sometimes you might hear items or even people being referred to as on loan. A book might be “on loan from the library.” A substitute teacher might be “on loan to the school.” Just know that this is an expression that doesn’t conform to typical grammar rules. It’s an informal way of using the word.
Lend has many meanings. Sometimes it means to impart a quality to something. An example of this can be found in the essay “Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors” by Henry David Thoreau: “But history must not yet tell the tragedies enacted here; let time intervene in some measure to assuage and lend an azure tint to them.”
Lend can also mean to adapt oneself (or itself) to something. For example, “A large basement lends itself to many uses, such as a playroom or an office.”
Lend can also be used in a figurative way. For instance, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony says, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” He obviously isn’t asking the citizens of Rome to give him their ears in a literal sense. Rather, he’s asking them to listen to him.
Borrow vs. Loan and Lend
Sometimes in casual speech the words loan and lend are confused with the word borrow. For example, someone might ask, “Can you borrow me some money for a few days?” This is a non-standard way to use borrow. A good way to avoid this error is to remember that borrow means to take, while lend and loan mean to give. For instance, if you ask a friend, “Can I borrow your red sweater for a few days?” she might answer, “Sure, I can lend it to you as long as you return it by Friday.”