I've been thinking about pairs of contrasting words such as these:

  • go (to) vs come (from)
  • give (to) vs receive (from)
  • lend (to) vs borrow (from)
  • take (to) vs bring (from)

Is there a term in linguistics for such pairs?

Are there terms for the type on the left vs the type on the right of each pair?

Also, I'm not sure if other pairs would fall into the same category or not. Such as:

  • teach (to) vs learn (from)
  • I'm struck by the fact that all of these can swap prepositions to move to each other's column. Mar 13, 2016 at 8:54
  • The prepositions are just there, in parentheses, to clarify what the words mean even without them for those who don't just see what I'm asking about at first glance. I'm very interested in your analysis of things such as "give from" and "receive to"! Mar 13, 2016 at 10:39
  • Can you tell us more example pairs that are or are not members of your set? win/lose? buy/sell? heal/injure? learn/unlearn? (The latter I assume is not.) Mar 14, 2016 at 10:45
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer: None of those would be members of the set. All on the left imply "away from the speaker or some other reference" while all those on the right imply toward the speaker etc. Mar 14, 2016 at 10:49
  • What if I say sell/buy (not buy/sell)? It differs from give/receive only by price, and from lend/borrow only by duration. Mar 14, 2016 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


These pairs are antonyms that happen to be verbs.

It's difficult to infer too much from 4.5 examples, but they are all possibly relational antonyms or converses. (However go/come does not necessarily involve an animate relation, but it can.)

(This set happens to include only verbs, and specifically only verbs that can take an indirect object or prepositional object.)

There can be no good label for either column, because it is not necessarily clear which word in an antonym pair is somehow positive or primary. (For example, why are give and bring in opposing columns? Can you define a rule that would work on a larger set or cross-lingual set of relational antonyms?) So the pairs are orderless.

  • "Give" means to transfer possession of something from the speaker or other reference point. "Bring" means to carry an object toward the speaker or some other reference point. I give my money and receive my change. Go to the post office and take this letter with you. Come to my house and bring some drinks with you. Etc. Mar 14, 2016 at 10:54
  • After reading the Wikipedia article they seem to be a subset of converses. I only included verbs in my examples because they were the ones that came to mind and seem to be clearest but I wouldn't be surprised if other word types also fit into the paradigm. Mar 14, 2016 at 10:57
  • I gave him the money. and I brought him the money overlap significantly. He received the money. and He took the money. also. The nuance seems to be that receive is a bit passive, and also give/take and send/receive are not pairs in the set. Mar 14, 2016 at 11:27
  • I think bring is neutral on direction. (You can bring it there, or here.) Not so with go. Mar 14, 2016 at 11:29
  • No. Though speakers of nonstandard English especially Irish English use it that way. At their core "bring" means "bring it here" and "take" means "take it there". Nonstandard speakers also confuse "lend" and "borrow". This question does not concern itself with other senses, nonstandard or other usage, just with the core semantics. Sorry for my inability to make it clear for everybody. You're missing the point I'm trying to make. Mar 14, 2016 at 11:41

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