Monday, October 20, 2008

English Language: Take, Bring, Send, Follow & Fetch

Pop Quiz, Singapore:

Fill in the blank:

I'm ___________ my friend to the airport this afternoon.

a) taking
b) bringing
c) sending
d) following
e) all of the above

How many of you answered 'e?' Be honest! Here in Singapore all of these words are used almost interchangeably. In Standard English the only correct answer is "a) taking."

Here's the difference between these words:
Taking = movement away from you. Therefore, you can say, "I'm taking my friend to the airport, the store, home (to his/her house, not yours)"

Bringing = movement towards you. You can bring your friend home (to your home) from the airport. You can ask your friends to bring (you) a bottle of wine for dinner too.

Sending = movement away from you and you do not go with the thing you're sending. Just like when you send a letter, you don't jump in the mailbox with it, the same is true if you send your friends to the airport - you don't go with them. You send your friends somewhere when you for example, call a taxi for them and the taxi comes and picks them up and you stay home.

Following = doing the same thing as someone else, just after them. So in our airport example, your friend is driving to the airport in his car and you are following him in your car. When he changes lanes, you change lanes, when he turns, you turn - all the way to the airport.

Another word I like to throw into this mix is "fetch." I often hear people say they are going to "fetch" their friend at the airport. Although this may be correct in the sense that it follows the definition "to begin in one place, travel to another, get something and travel back to the starting place," in practice we usually only use the word "fetch" when referring to a game dogs play. We usually don't "fetch" our kids at school, "fetch" our partners at work, or "fetch" our friends. A better phrase to use instead is "pick up."

So, when our 5 guests arrived in Singapore last week, I took my husband with me to the airport to pick them up. Since there were too many people to fit in one car, some of us got in a taxi and followed my husband home. One of their bags was lost so the airport staff had it sent to us the next day. It was a good thing it arrived because it was filled with all the presents they brought for our daughter.

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