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Writer's Tips
from Two Brothers Press

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Is it Bring or Take? Depends on the destination.
There are many oddities in the English language...and probably in all languages, but this one "brings" the cake...

carryMany times, new writers simply don't think of the implications of choosing one word over another, almost as if they're interchangeable, like "which" and "that." Even Microsoft's grammar checker doesn't distinguish these words, and when you've used "which," the grammar checker will underline it, and say "consider using 'that,'" but when you choose "that," Microsoft will say, "consider using 'which.'" But they aren't interchangeable. Nor are the words "who" and "whom," and nooo, whom isn't the more formal of the two; neither ordinary people, nor sophisticated people should ever say, "Whom is at the door?"

And when we get into the use of words with a multiplicity of uses, like both "bring" and "take," carelessness or ignorance can create teeth-grating sounds to an editor's ears.

Why can't the alien from outer space come up to you and say, "Bring me to your leader?" Or, why can't the same alien say, "Take your leader to me." One way of figuring out which word to use is who is saying it, whether you will be moving away from a point at which a command is given or moving toward the one who says it.  The explanation that follows  isn't found in any book of English grammar—I don't think—unless I absorbed this years ago so that it just feels like my own thoughts on the matter. But others have come up with a way to distinguish the difference between "bring" and "take," like this:

You can only take something from where you are to another place. ("Here, take this book to your brother.")
You can only have someone bring something from where you aren't to where you are. ("Bring me your book.")

As you can see, both the destination away from somewhere and toward another location changes the word we choose.

The "tip" in this article is not about the slight shades of meaning of bring or take so much as putting these words into some kind of spatial context. The same can be said of pairs of words like "come" and "go." A friend explained it like this:

You can only go to a place where you currently aren't. I can't say, "I'm coming to Spain," if I'm here in America. I can only say, "I'm going to Spain."

However, if we're telling someone in Spain that we're planning a trip to Spain, we can shift the notion to "come" in relation to them in this sentence: "I'm coming to Spain to see you." Why? Because the point of view has shifted to the person in Spain.

Really? Can we actually use spatial relationships between two people and objects to decide on the verbs "bring and take," "come and go?"

It might be simpler to help the guy out in the picture above. If he has picked up the books from a certain place and is walking away he is "taking" the books. In the same action, he would only be "bringing" the books to someone who is waiting for him. But there's a slight change in point of view. The man carrying the books is "bringing" them from the other's perspective, taking them to the requestor from his own perspective. The man in the picture would still say, "I am taking the books to my friend."