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Bought or brought?

In speech it isn’t always clear whether someone says brought or bought, but I really hate seeing them written in the wrong context so here are definitions to help people get them right…

bought: to have purchased something. It is the past tense of the word buy.
They bought their car from a registered dealer

brought: to have carried or taken something/someone with you. It is the past tense of the word bring.
She brought a friend with her to the conference.

‘After you bring something you’ve brought it’ is a handy reminder of which is which as many people get confused over these two words.

If you are not confident you are getting words like bought and brought in the correct places, get a second opinion before you make your writing public. Ask a friend to read your work for you (not just to catch a brought/bought error) or get a professional to edit your work for you, especially if it is something important like your website content or product manual.

Learn more writing tips from the Writing Well eBook

80 Responses to Bought or brought?

  • Pingback: Bye buying!

  • People who use “brought” when the correct term would be “bought” are [very annoying and I don't like this error.]

    • tashword says:

      Obviously everyone has different skills and making spelling mistakes doesn’t necessarily reflect on people’s value or intelligence. However, it is very annoying at times to see such mistakes and I understand your frustration, Martin!

      Hopefully, this post has helped at least a few people learn the difference between brought and bought.

    • Ray says:

      I can’t express how much it annoys me when people use ‘brought’ instead of ‘bought’. It is very simple, something you learn in primary school. Why do some adults have such difficulty with it and why does nobody correct them. I am from Europe and now I live in New Zealand and I never came across this before I came to NZ. Maybe there needs to be a national education programme to fix the problem.

      • tashword says:

        It’s great to hear from you Ray, and very interesting to think the same issue doesn’t occur in Europe. I like the national campaign idea but I suspect we’d be in the minority there!

      • Gini says:

        Hi Ray, it does also happen here in Australia, I am European and have lived in NZ for 21 years and now 3 years in Australia where some people also use brought instead of bought!!! Very annoying and dumb!!!

      • tashword says:

        Thanks for adding your voice, Gini :)

        It is interesting that both you and Ray didn’t come across brought/bought issues in Europe. I wish we didn’t in Australia, too!

      • fdxfbgxdfdbg says:

        I am from NZ and I think that the accent here make it difficult to distinguish which of these words a person is using, so people who grow up learning speech by hearing rather than reading learn this wrong. I know there are a few words that I find difficult to say or be understood when I say them, because our vowel sounds are long and lazy.

      • tashword says:

        That’s a good point – if you mishear it as you learn it, it is easy to get a word wrong yourself.

    • noname says:

      you cocky sod we cant help how we are BROUGHT up!!!!

      • Tash Hughes says:

        I agree that insulting people isn’t constructive, noname, and we all have different backgrounds and priorities, but people can choose to change things despite their upbringing.

  • Older says:

    don’t forget ‘brung’. It is commonly used in place of brought.

  • Nicola Herington says:

    This common error is my pet hate and drives me mad. I’ve heard TV newsreaders, politicians and many, many more mispronounce it. So annoying.

  • Alex Watson says:

    ‘brung’ makes me cringe but not as much as ‘driv’ as a past tense of drive. ‘Squoze’ as opposed to squeezed also kills me.

    • tashword says:

      Alex, I’m pleased to say that I haven’t come acorss ‘squoze’ as that would kill me, too!

    • adword says:

      I also can’t stand it when someone says, “off of” in a sentence one after the other. “I took my shoe off of my foot”. But yes the “bought/brought” problem is the most annoying of all! I grew up in small country town and when i finished school i moved to the city, people often joke about how bogan my education must be, on the contrary, i have found when it comes to literacy my education is far more advanced then a lot of people i have come across where i live now!

      • tashword says:

        Hi Adword, and thanks for joining in :)
        I don’t like generalisations that x group is well educated (or whatever) and y group isn’t – there are great and ordinary urban schools, plus great and ordinary rural schools – so I’m glad you are able to show your country background doesn’t stop you spelling correctly!
        “Off of” is somewhat redundant and annoying – glad to say I don’t hear it often except amongst kids (and they’re easier to correct!)

      • Eh? says:

        A pet hate of mine is reading through a post and they haven’t used capital ‘I’. Totally unforgivable and should be corrected through the use of capital punishment.

      • tashword says:

        I’m not sure capital punishment is the right response, Eh, but I do understand your frustration! I can overlook one “i” error as a typo but many in a row just yells lazy to me.

        Hope you are finding my blog of value and that you comment in other posts, too – it’s always good to hear from others who notice bad grammar!

      • adword says:

        was just tryin ta get sumfin off my chest but this site too geeky for me haha iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii gosh how pathetic

  • alfie says:

    thanks this comment help me in finding the difference btwn brought and bought.

    Thanks

  • Ames says:

    Have to say this error drives me up a wall.

  • Fithart says:

    Another one that gets me is people who say libary instead of library. Initially, I thought it was a literacy issue, but I have heard professionals say it as well. In fact, I heard a “Libarian” use the word once. EEEEEEEEK…..like fingernails on a blackboard!

    • tashword says:

      “Libarian” is a scary thought, Fithart! I haven’t noticed that one very much, but I understand the pain it causes as I feel it for “somethink” and “write me”!

  • lisa22 says:

    My fiance is kiwi and i have noticed when around his family they all use the word brought for to buy something, this is the reason i visisted this website to prove i speak proper england haha have a nice new year everyone and happy hogmanay to my fellow scots

    • tashword says:

      That’s an interesting cultural difference, Lisa. I guess it’s harder to correct an entire nation if they all do it, but bought really is the past tense of buy…

      Happy New Year to you, too!

    • GC says:

      But then you wrote i instead of I :)

      “Would of” instead of “would have” annoys me, some people say when you say “would have” it can sound like “would of” but it’s obvious that some people say “would of”, and heaps of people type “would of”, so annoying.

      • TashWord says:

        GC, ‘would of’ grates on me, too. I think that is definitely a case of people learning from what they hear (or think they hear) and then sticking to it. Thanks for adding your comment :)

  • Spelling Queen of the Galaxy says:

    Misusing bought and brought is also my pet hate. So is the incorrect usage of me, myself and I. So many Australians say, “just between you and I” when it is “between you and me”. Or a funnier one is, “myself and my husband went shopping”.

    I was a secretary for over 30 years. One of the worst men I ever worked for, would compose his letters full of grammatical errors. I would type the letters with the correct spelling and grammar and return them to him for signature. He would then insist that I was wrong and would make me re-type the letters, complete with errors. I could not do that and resigned soon after. He was a pig-headed egomaniac. (Short too).

    • tashword says:

      “Myself and my husband” just sounds so wrong!

      Leading on from that is the misuse of me and my – “here is me bag” makes me cringe and see red!

      Thanks for your comment Spelling Queen. I understand your frustration – I have clients who still argue with me about grammar even when they pay me to help with grammar “because I’m no good at it”!

  • Spelling queen of the galaxy says:

    Thanks Tashword. I quit office work forever for the exact same reason! Arguments from the very people who employed me for my skills. Unfortunately in this country, many people do not value or treasure good skills. It is called ‘dumbing down’ and sadly, it thrives here (Australia).

    • tashword says:

      It’s sad that skills aren’t always recognised, and I find writing skills are often undervalued as ‘everyone can write’ so it doesn’t appear so specialised.

      Grammar and spelling are also seen as boring, but surely boring doesn’t equal unimportant?

      Having said that, I have also dealt with many people who do value my skills and are relieved that I make their message clear and concise with little effort on their part!

  • Petal says:

    Spelling queen of the galaxy – I totally agree with you and am currently working for someone who ‘dumbs me down’ for daring to comment on/and or correct poor spelling, grammar and document formatting, even though it is part of my position description!!! I work in government role where adherence to particular templates and formatting styles is essential but I’m told “that’s grade one stuff” and “don’t worry about it”. I’m made to feel inferior or silly when I comment on spelling mistakes. It’s a shame as, with previous bosses, my skills in this area were very much appreciated. I believe the problem in Australia (possibly just Qld??) became worse many years ago when primary school children learning to spell were encouraged to do so phonetically. The thinking at the time was that correcting spelling errors upset the children. damaged their self esteem and the ability to express themselves on paper. Apparently as long as little Johnny knew what he had written, it didn’t matter how it was spelt. All well and good, but it created a generation of people who haven’t got a clue or even care. A couple of my pet hates, apart from ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ is the use of ‘everyday’ instead of ‘every day’ and ‘alot’ instead of ‘a lot’. What is with this running together of words to make them into one? The incorrect use of apostrophes drives me insane too! Did some people completely skip that year of primary school when this was taught, or isn’t it taught anymore? Why do so many people think that if a word has an ‘s’ at the end, it must also have an apostrophe? I could go on and on, but I think you can see where I’m coming from. It’s good to know there are other people out there who are frustrated as I am about this issue.

    • tashword says:

      Hi Petal – sorry to hear your boss doesn’t appreciate care in documents and the like. I think it must be doubly frustrating when it is your job and she (he?) makes you silly for pointing it out!

      In Victoria, we did have the phonetic spelling mentality in schools for a while too but now they teach and correct spelling again. They are just more diplomatic about it (e.g. if little Johnny makes 20 mistakes in a 50 word piece, they just correct 5 or so and encourage self-correction). Self-esteem is very important but I don’t think ignoring their mistakes and misbehaviours is the way to ensure good self-esteem.

      I have written about the use of apostrophes, too. It amazes me that some people who generally know the writing basics still don’t get how to use them.

  • Petal says:

    Ha! Just noticed some errors of my own in previous comment… Sorry!

  • Petal says:

    Hi Tashword – self esteem is extremely important. I hope I didn’t give the opposite impression. I understand too, that kids these days seem to have a much larger curriculum than in my time, however, surely the written word is still part of our communication. Imagine if every book, newspaper or magazine article you read (or tried to read) was misspelt, with poor grammar! Surely that would ruin the enjoyment of the exercise. On that note, have you also noticed how many forms of written communication these days do contain errors? Websites, in particular. Some of those are just shocking. If I could work in a field where I wielded a red pen fixing errors all day long, I’ll have found my dream job.

  • Sassycat says:

    Hi Tashword.I am glad to see that correct grammar has not completely disappeared in this fast paced world of emails and texts. Texted is another word that annoys the hell out of me and while I worked for an auction house the number of people that bidded on an item.
    While spelling and grammar was never my forte while at school I still try my best to get it right, as I constantly cast a critical eye over letters I receive for spelling, grammar and formatting. My pet hates include ‘Americanization’ of spelling with the use of ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ and spelling of words such as neighbor instead of neighbour etc. and constantly having to correct spell checker for these words.

    • tashword says:

      HI Sassycat – it’s always nice to hear from someone who undertsands it is important to aim for good grammar and spelling :)

      Spell checkers defaulting to Americanised spelling annoy me – changing the default just doesn’t stay set anymore unfortunately.

  • Ben says:

    In speech it isn’t always clear whether someone says brought or bought, but I really hate seeing them written in the wrond context so here are definitions to help people get them right…

    Can you do one on the difference between wrong and wrond??

    Although joking aside, I do appreciate the article.

    • tashword says:

      Glad you appreciated it Ben – and you passed the test to see if people were reading it thoroughly.

      Seriously, I did miss that typo so apologies for any confusion and thanks for letting me know Ben – it has now been fixed!

  • alan says:

    You spelt wrond,wrong!

    • tashword says:

      Thanks Alan – I think much, much faster than I can type and apparently didn’t take my own advice on proof reading this post properly. My apologies!

  • text says:

    We are raising a generation of individuals that only text. Spelling correctly will never be a part of their vocabulary.

    • tashword says:

      That’s a sad thought, and unfortunately has a fair amount of truth in it. I just keep plugging away where I can as I believe communication is much easier when we all use the same language (including the written and grammatical conventions)

  • Laser says:

    I currently live in New Zealand and people here confuse bought and brought as well! So annoying. And when I see they get it wrong on NEWS ARTICLES WRITTEN BY REPORTERS I get even more annoyed. Haha.

    Other things I get annoyed is when they say “writ” instead of “wrote” AA past-tense of “write”. LOL

    • tashword says:

      Hi Laser, I hear your pain over ‘writ’, too!

      It is easier to ignore errors like this when they aren’t from professionals who should know better – I particularly don’t like ‘expert’s getting the basics wrong as it is teaching others the wrong thing to do, too

  • Ray says:

    Another thing I battle with is the use of the words “woman” and “women”. Again I have only experienced this in NZ. It seems that the word “woman” is singular and plural in NZ. I have read that this is just the way “women” is pronounced in NZ so it sounds very like “woman” but I don’t believe that because I have heard plenty of others pronounce it correctly.

    • tashword says:

      I have never come across the one Ray – well unless you count young children and they are more likely to say ‘womans’ anyway!

      Maybe it is just those with a stronger New Zealand accent that come across as the same word?

  • Vickie says:

    Hi tashword,
    I’d just like to say to everyone on this website who is banging on about how we’re ‘raising a generation of individuals who only text’ and ‘spelling correctly will never be a part of their vocabulary’, I’m an 18 year old girl from England and I can tell you all now that many of my friends and I don’t write in text language, in primary school we were always corrected on our spelling/punctuation/grammar and most of my year in secondary school passed our English GCSEs with top marks (bearing in mind that marks were deducted if our spelling/punctuation/grammar was incorrect). I am sick and tired of seeing and hearing people having a go at my generation. We are not all complete idiots in hoods with mobile phones permanently attached to our hands and text language inscribed in our brains.
    Sorry for the rant, I had to say something. Brilliant website though!

    • tashword says:

      Hi Vickie, and thanks for leaving your comments :)

      I don’t like generalisations either so I understand you getting frustrated by comments about ‘young people can’t spell’. In all generations, many people do know and use correct written English but there are some who don’t and some who don’t care and are happy to take an easier option (such as SMS short cuts).

      In Australia (and presumably other places), the education system has moved between teaching philosophies including a phase where phonetic spelling was acceptable and the ideas were given more weight than spelling and grammar. Kids are now taught spelling and grammar but perhaps not to the same level as some older generations. I think people criticising younger generations’ knowledge of written English is more about what they’ve been taught than of the students themselves.

      Have a happy new year and good luck with life beyond your GCSEs :)

  • ou7shined says:

    This is a pet hate of mine too.
    In fact I couldn’t take it anymore and Googled (is that verb allowed? :D) to see if others were equally bothered by it.
    I am Scottish living in Aberdeen and use mainly UK forums. I’ve noticed English people often mix brought and bought when posting in forums but us Scots with our rounded ‘R’s (to the best of my knowledge) do not make this mistake. I am a musician and hang out mainly in music fora and had thought that many offenders were just being “street” by saying it wrongly (they certainly don’t seem as uneducated as their grasp of this simple concept indicates) but it would seem that this phenomenon is more wide spread…. like to the other side of the world.

    I am all for our language evolving over time and I love dialects (especially since where I’m from the local dialects are so far removed from English it’s funny) but this brought/bought thing is simply wrong. It is not our rich language evolving, it is being dumbed down.

    I am utterly stunned when I read here that some news readers are allowed to get away with it.

    Regarding Vickie’s post above : I too hardly use “text speak” while texting. I did used to try and cram as much info into one text as possible when they first came out to save money but nowadays with so many free texts included in our modern tariffs, I never ever run over, leaving me free to send 5 perfectly spelt (spelled ??) and punctuated page texts at a time if I wanted.

    Btw I am dyslexic and put great effort into posting my thoughts correctly. Maybe that’s why people with correctly wired brains misusing simple words annoys me so. :D

    • tashword says:

      Thank you for such a great comment, ou7shined :) It obviously took you time and effort (even aside from being dyslexic) so I appreciate it.

      I am finding it fascinating to hear that some countries or regions get brought/bought wrong but others don’t. And I completely agree that language evolving is great but there is so much dumbing down lately which is frightening and somewhat offensive to me.

  • Paul says:

    Ok while we at it, what about Good & well?
    She did good, she did well.
    I notice on tv the Americans say, you did good. Here in Oz we usually say well.
    I noticed my daughter more and more taking on Americanisms.

    • tashword says:

      Hi Paul. Some of the Americanisms really annoy me, too – especially the grammatically incorrect ‘write me’ (instead of ‘write to me’).
      Unfortunately, with so many of our TV shows being made in the USA, we are exposed to a lot of American terminology and ways of speaking so our cultures are becoming less distinct.

  • Adam says:

    Wow, what a bunch of snobs (not everyone here). Many of these errors annoy me too but I can’t believe that such menial issues dominate your life. I’m sure there are things that you’re not good at either- buy a mirror!

    • tashword says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment Adam. I think you can find little things annoying without implying those things dominate your life.

      More importantly, when trying to give a professional image to your business, tiny details are important and that’s what I’m trying to help people with.

      • Adam says:

        That was not directed at you or this website, I think it’s very helpful. I can see how my post reads now but it was actually directed at dome of the others with extreme comments in their posts. Some that come to mind are people resigning from their jobs because they can’t stand others making errors.

      • tashword says:

        Thanks for coming back and adding that, Adam :)

    • Bob says:

      I agree with you…I can be annoyed at spelling/grammar issues, but at the end of the day if it’s readable, I don’t dwell on it.

      Besides, how many folks do you know who can’t even format their own computer and reinstall Windows, for instance? Or maintain their own car? Or fix minor plumbing/electrical problems? Despite the fact we use computers, cars, lights and taps every day!

      • tashword says:

        Thanks for the comment, Bob. There is definitely a line between readable and unreadable, and readable is certainly sufficient in many cases but I think a business should be aiming for more than just readable.

        Yes, we all have different skills and abilities. I know a certain amount about computers, plumbing and electricity (that science degree does come in handy occasionally!) but I wouldn’t call myself an expert, lol, and happily get an expert when I need help. In turn, plumbers, IT people and electricians can get writers like me to help with their grammar and spelling – we all help each other for the best results.

  • Just a secretary UK says:

    Interesting reading. Definitely a huge bug of mine. I too was taught from an early age about buy bought, bring brought and so, wrongly, presumed everybody was. I also agree that people seem to care less and less these days but it’s a hard habit to break when it’s been your job for 22 years, so I find myself correcting my son’s work and even one of his teachers’ comments. I believe everybody is allowed to make mistakes but if you’re being PAID to teach children then you of all people should get it right so it’s not surprising some younger people are getting it wrong

    • Just a secretary UK says:

      And the reason I came to your site was an article on the BBC site using brought instead of bought. Who checks these things before publishing them??!!!

      • tashword says:

        Unfortunately, the editors are not always right – or are just too rushed to do their job properly. And it seems to be more frequent online so I can only assume people proof read less for websites (I guess in part because it seems so urgent to have information live two minutes ago so it is rushed!) Thanks for leaving a comment :)

    • tashword says:

      I love how you have corrected a teacher’s comments :) I agree that teachers really need to know what they’re doing or how can children learn from them? As you said, we’re all human and make errors but repeatedly making the same error is a bit telling.

  • Gillian says:

    Another thing that really irritates me is when people describe the taste of food. How often is food described as “beautiful” when clearly they mean “delicious”? Too often!

  • Craig says:

    I came here looking to prove a couple of friends wrong on the subject of brought and bought as it irritates the life out of me and they both INSIST that they are correct and I am not.
    I am not perfect when it comes to written work but I am constantly annoyed when I see simple grammatical errors pop up constantly like this particular one.
    Glad to see I can now prove they’re wrong

    Could you please create a blog on the correct use of ‘t’ and ‘ed’, as in learnt and learned or spelt and spelled plus many many more.

    Thank You

  • Tish says:

    What do you use if you bought something for someone and then brought it to them?

    • TashWord says:

      Hi Tish. The rules don’t change – it just depends on the context as to which word would be correct. Is the emphasis on the bringing or the buying? Or you can explain both aspects, using brought/bought or other words for clarity.

      For example, I could write I bought this yesterday for you. Or I brought a cake with me, not a home made one though! Or even I brought a bought cake to share (this is correct but I think it’s a bit clumsy).

  • Greg says:

    Interesting that folk from Europe consider themselves superior in terms of use of vocabulary and grammar….Australia is multicultural and abnormalities of speaking their adopted language will occur where English is spoken part-time in the home. History has shown the way we talk and spell has brought the changes in the spelling of English words, example wurth to worth…Gee much to the displeasure of the spelling enthusiast of the day!!

    For years it is the American English accent vs. a British English accent….Those from Europe consider a British English accent as classy… and the Southern American accent is perceived uneducated…Same as the Quebec French accent is perceived in France…It’s that old “we’re superior syndrome”…. Language changes in different regions of the world as evident with computers having both American or English spell checks.. IMO it’s only a matter of time before we adopt our own dictionary that is relevant to our region.

    • TashWord says:

      Hi Greg, it is interesting to see how language has evolved over time. One reason English can be so difficult (root/route/rout and there/their/they’re as examples) is that the English have picked up words from and been influenced by other languages.

      Spelling and word use does change over time, but I still think it is important to use correct spelling (of the time) to make it easier for others to understand the message we are trying to write.

  • Caser says:

    I was brought up in an Asia country.
    How i remember is Bring = Brought (both have the alphabet “r”) then the other will be without the “r”.

  • Subash says:

    The difference between these two words is a very simple one. They are the past tenses of two different verbs.

    ‘Bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy’: I bought a new car last week.

    ‘Brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring’: I brought him a glass of water.

    The difference can be remembered easily too, as ‘bring’ shares its first two letters with ‘brought’ (‘br’).
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