Column: Taking grammar to heart


Question: “Dear Grammar Guy, has everyone totally forgot what they learned in grade school about ‘bring’ and ‘take?’ I have heard many examples lately from college educated(?) folks misusing these words. Here’s an example: ‘I have to get up at 5:00 to bring Mom and Dad to the airport. Why am I still up?’ (from a Facebook post)  Obviously to me it should be ‘take’ since the writer is not currently living at the airport. Should I just give up on it?” – (Bernie Augenstein, Greenwood)

Answer: Never give up, Bernie! Never surrender!

I share your pain on this one. The rule is really quite simple – and it’s all about you!

The Oxford Dictionaries boil it down to this: “The essential difference between these two words is that ‘bring’ implies movement toward someone or something … whereas ‘take’ implies movement away from someone or something.”

Given your example above, “take” is clearly the correct word. But let’s flip it on its head to see how the point of reference of the speaker changes things.

If our speaker is, in fact, already at the airport, they might say something like, “Did you bring snacks for the flight?” or “I brought headsets for all of us.” However if the speaker is still at home, the verb changes: “Mom and Dad already took the snacks with them.” “Are we all taking carry-ons?” (Side note: Several airlines appear to be spelling “carry-on” as “carryon.” Don’t do that.)

Just remember the two parts to the equation: Where you are and where the person or thing is going in relation to you. Things are “brought” to you and “taken” away from you – despite the Gershwins’ lovely 1937 song claiming the contrary.