Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bring It Here, Take It There
Cranky Old Grammar Lady threw the newspaper across the room yesterday. The offending photo caption read (paraphrased to protect the guilty), “The car crashed into this convenience store and the victim was brought to Central Northern General Medical Center and Wallet Removal Service Inc.” (Disclaimer: no such hospital exists in this state.)

What’s wrong with it? The misuse of the verb bring. Or in this case its past form, brought. COGL has noticed a marked uptick recently in the confusion between bring and take, and will now clarify the difference. Pay attention, you there in the back row.

Ahem. To cite Merriam-Webster, bring means “to convey, lead, carry or cause to come along with one toward the place from which the action is being regarded.” Take means “to lead, carry, or cause to go along with one to another place.”

In other words, one can bring something here, or take something there.

Incorrect: “Did you bring the outgoing mail to the post office?” he asked, as we sat at home.
Correct: “No, dumkopf, I took it to the post office. But here, I brought home a letter from your mother.”

Mnemonic--If the person or item is going there, use take. If the person or item is coming here, use bring.

Getting back to the newspaper. The victim is “carried to another place” from the convenience store in the picture. In other words, the victim “went there.” If the photo showed the ER at Central Northern etc., then the caption could correctly say the victim was brought to it--“conveyed to the place from which the action is being regarded.”

So far, so good. This being English, there is an exception, which accounts for COGL’s chronic crankiness. Actually, if you pay attention to the definitions, it’s not so much an exception as a nuance. Suppose COGL contacts her son and invites herself for a visit. In return, she offers some genuine New Hampshire maple syrup, which the poor boy can’t get in Pennsylvania. “Would you like me to bring you some? I’ll bring a gallon for you,” she says. Huh? The syrup is going there. Why is bring the correct verb and not take?

Because “the place from which the action is being regarded” is the son’s house. If that confuses you, think of it this way--because COGL has called/written/emailed/contacted the son, she has in effect put herself beside him and is regarding her own action from his location. It’s a courtesy, if you like; putting oneself in another’s shoes.

Of course, if COGL were speaking with her husband, Cranky Old Car Guy, she would say, “I’m going to take a gallon of maple syrup to our son’s house.” To which COCG would say, “You’re gonna spoil that kid.”

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.

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