How to Use The Word “Take” in English

Can you take a joke? 

“How many Brazilians does it take to change a light bulb?”
“They don’t know because they still use candles.”

Don’t take it so seriously, I’m just taking the piss.

leia a tradução do texto em Português | RLE International Community

The word “take,” much like the word “get,” is so commonly misused in English by Portuguese speakers. The main reason for this is because the word “tomar” has so many uses in Portuguese. For example, tomar café, tomar remedio, tomar um banho, and so on. Much like in Portuguese, English also has many uses for the word “take” but quite they have different meanings.

5 Main uses:

“To take time.” In English we use the word “take” when talking about time, much like how you use the word “gastar tempo” in Portuguese. The most common way we would use this is when you’re asking someone a “how long” question, or explaining the amount of time it “takes” to do something.

  • How long does it take to get to Sao Paulo?
  • It took me 1 hour to get to work because of traffic.

“Take me to the candy shop.” Most of us know this track by my homeboy Mr. 50 Cent, where he’s using the word “take” just like the literal translation of the word “levar” in Portuguese. To take someone, or something to a place.

  • I took my old lady (my mom) to the dentist.
  • He had taken his pregnant wife to the hospital.

“To take medicine.” In English we also say to take medicine, just like in Portuguese (tomar remedio). But be careful because although we say take medicine, we don’t say to take in reference to beverages.

  • I took a lot of asprin for my headache.
  • I took a liter of water because I was dehydrated. I drank a litre of water.

“Take the bus to work”. This is more common with public transport, we use the verb take to express the mode of transport we use to get somewhere (bus, taxi, train).

  • I always take the bus to work
  • Why didn’t you take a taxi if you were drinking?

“It takes a lot practice to master a language.” This is used a lot when talking about what we need to achieve something, whether it’s a personal characteristic, or something physical.

  • It takes a lot of dedication to stay on a high carb raw vegan diet.
  • It took a lot of work and help from the community to clean up after the earthquake.

Common Errors

Because “take” in English and “tomar” in Portuguese have so many uses, it leads to many mistakes and misuses of the word when speaking the other language. From my personal experience with students, and mistakes I’ve made when speaking Portuguese, I’ve narrowed it down to the 4 most common mistakes.

To take a test/class

In English, we use the word take when talking about a test or an exam, also for a class like English or French. This is a common mistake because in Portuguese the word “do” is used. “did you take the T.O.E.F.L. exam?” or “I’m taking French class to prepare myself for my trip to Paris.”

Take/pick up

“Take” is often used instead of the word pickup (buscar). I hear this mistake a lot in Brazil, many people say, “I’m going to take my children from school.” Take would only be used when you leave your children at school (deixar na escolar).

Take some beers

Because Brazilians are so friendly and always ask each other to go out and have some drinks, that leads to another common misuse of the word take. “Hey Chad, let’s go take some beers this weekend?” hum, I didn’t know what to say, “take the beers where?.” So, we would say “get” some beers or “drink” some beers.

Take care

Although this expression is correct, I find that it’s often use incorrectly. The expression “take care” is used often when people say goodbye to each other, just like “se cuida.” If you think someone is in trouble, we would say “be careful,” not “take care.”

5 collocations with take

The English language has so many collocations with the word “take.” When it comes to collocation the only way to know them all is to study and memorize them. So I’m going to give you 5 of my favorites, and some links to other resources.

  1. To take my word for it (I’m sure of what I’m saying)
  2. To take a leak (slang expression meaning to urinate)
  3. To take a chance (accept a situation which could be risky)
  4. To take a photo
  5. To take it or leave it (expression meaning you’re not going to negotiate any more)

Other resources:

Famous song titles with the word “take”

Take it easy- the Eagles. Take it easy means to relax, don’t get too stressed and is also used often when saying goodbye to people. “See you next week Trevor, take it easy.”

Take on me- A-ha. The title of this track is actually said the other way around, “take me on,” which they also say in the song.  To take someone on means you challenge them in a fight or some kind of competitive sport. “He took me on in a game of table tennis, but I totally destroyed him.”

What it takes-Aerosmith. The phrase what it takes is saying you  would do ANYTHING to achieve that particular goal. “I would do what it takes to win the competition,” this means you are willing to anything to win, even if it’s not morally correct.  This expression is often said “I’ll so whatever it takes.”

Take it all-Adele. In this song Adele is telling her ex-lover to take it all. This can be translated literally in Portuguese, she’s telling him to take all of his things with him because she doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

Take it back-Pink Floyd.  To take something back can be to return something to someone or a place, “I took the sweater back to the store because it didn’t fit.” It is also used with words if someone says something really offensive, “Take back what you said or I’ll never speak to you again.”

Whether you’re taking advice from someone, taking the bus to work, taking a break or taking it easy, you’re going to see the word “take” has many meanings in English. So, like I tell my students, try keeping a vocabulary journal and start writing down all the different uses of the word. The more you take notice of the word the easier it’s going to be to memorize it.

Take care Real Life English, and if you haven’t already, don’t forget to join us at the Real Life English Facebook Community.

Return from How to Use the Word “Take” in English to Grammar

  • can use take as take a lunch break or does or makes