• 2-minute read
  • 18th November 2017

Word Choice: Bought vs. Brought

We love a good ‘bring-and-buy’ sale (along with car boots and flea markets; any excuse to root around in boxes of old tat, basically). But we’re not such big fans of the constituent words, especially in the past tense. Why? Because ‘bought’ and ‘brought’ cause a lot of issues in writing.

There’s nowt quite as glamorous as a car boot sale.
(Photo: allispossible.org.uk/flickr)

The trouble here is that ‘bring’ and ‘buy’ are both irregular verbs. Thus, despite being very different in the present tense, the irregular past tense forms are easy to get confused. Fear not, though! There is an easy way to tell these terms apart, as we will now explain.

Bought (Past Tense of ‘Buy’)

First, we should make sure the meanings of these words are clear. ‘Bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy’, so we use it to describe having purchased something:

I went out and bought a costume for the party.

It is also used for other senses of ‘buy’, such as ‘believe’:

She had bought his lies last time, so now she knew not to trust him.

This second sense is informal, so you shouldn’t use it in academic work.

Brought (Past Tense of ‘Bring’)

‘Brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring’. It therefore indicates that something has been taken somewhere:

I brought a friend to the party.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

Another use means ‘caused to happen’, so we can also use ‘brought’ like this:

The change was brought about by protests in Washington.

Thus, if you’re using the past tense of ‘bring’, you’ll need the word ‘brought’.

Summary: Bought or Brought?

While these words are similar in spelling, they have different meanings:

  • Bought is the past tense and past participle of the verb ‘buy’. It typically refers to having purchased something for money.
  • Brought is the past tense and past participle of the verb ‘bring’. It usually refers to having taken something somewhere or having caused something.

However, since ‘buy’ does not have an ‘r’ in it, it should be easy to remember that ‘brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring’.

And to make sure your writing is error free, why not submit a document to our proofreaders today? We can check your spelling is always correct.


Comments (0)

Get help from a language expert.

Try our proofreading services for free.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.