Posted by: Michael | July 19, 2009

“To Send” and “To Take”

In Bahasa Melayu, you might say:

Saya akan menghantar surat ke nenek saya.

This means “I will send a letter to my grandmother”.

However, the verb (meng)hantar is also used in the following way:

Bolehkah awak menghantar kanak-kanak ke sekolah hari ini?

The same Malay verb is used in both sentences, however, it cannot be translated the same way in the second sentence.

The second sentence correctly translated into English is:

“Can you take the children to school today?”

But hang on a minute! Isn’t ambil the Malay word for “to take”? Not in this context.

While Malay may use one word for both meanings, in English, there are two separate words (“To send” and “To take”), and the correct one must be used in the correct place.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “send” as: “cause to go or be taken to a destination.” Wiktionary defines it at “To make something (such as an object or message) go from one place to another.”

The use of “cause” and “make” in these definitions show that you are simply starting the movement of the object in its direction to its final destination. They show that you are not going with the object or the message. When you send a letter, you don’t get into the mailbox and go with it (unless you’re Mr. Bean!). So therefore, if you are driving your children to school in your car, you cannot say that you are “sending” them to school (since you are going with them). You are “taking” them to school.

However, you can say “I’ll send the kids to school in a taxi”, because that means that by calling the taxi and telling the driver the destination, you are making your children go from one place to another. You are causing them to be taken to a destination. You yourself are not taking them, so it is okay to use the word “send” in this sense.

An easy way to determine if the word “send” is correct:

Are you going with the person?

Yes – You cannot use “send”
No – You may be able to use “send”.

This is a very common mistake made by Malaysians, but it’s wrong. It is simply a literal translation of the verb (meng)hantar without understanding that each of the ways it is used has a different translation in English.


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