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Borrowed Without Permission

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Black Widow: Where did Captain America learn to steal a car?
Captain America: Nazi Germany. And we're borrowing it. Take your feet off the dash.

A lot of heroes need things they don't have — usually vehicles, weapons, or sometimes money. And then there are villains, who want things they don't have, such as vehicles, weapons, or money. But despite the fact that they often get these things through what can only be described as theft, they often don't see it as stealing, or at least they don't want to admit it. So what do they say when confronted about it? "I didn't steal it. I borrowed it."

Sometimes they will casually add that they borrowed without asking. Sometimes they'll add that they borrowed it permanently. Sometimes they genuinely tried/wanted to give it back, but it usually remains borrowed for quite some time.

Children's media also often has the Stock Aesop that "borrowing without asking" is functionally identical to theft.

Sub-Trope to Insistent Terminology. Related to Hero Stole My Bike and Fell Off the Back of a Truck. Compare "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word and Less Embarrassing Term. Also see How Did You Get It?.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • BlazBlue: Remix Heart: In ch. 9, when Noel comes up with the Ammit Cryas in her possession (as it's supposed to be kept in the school staff's room), she claimed that she "borrowed" it for her team's trip.
    Tsubaki: You went and "borrowed" it...
  • The very first episode of Pokémon: The Series has Ash meeting Misty this way when he borrows her bike to rush Pikachu to the Pokémon Center. He never gets the chance to return it since the bike is accidentally destroyed by Pikachu's electric attack. It is for this reason that Misty joins Ash in his travels, insisting that he needs to pay her back for the bike, which never gets fulfilled until the Grand Finale of Master Quest.

    Comic Books 
  • One Gaston Lagaffe strip starts with Fantasio angrily taking his typewriter back from Prunelle's hands and complaining that people always take his typewriter without asking first.
  • Inverted by Dr. Jekyll in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, who thought he had a terrible evil side because he once stole a book. (And was attracted to men.) According to Hyde, he actually had borrowed it and just never got around to returning it.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animation 
  • Coco: Apparently, Héctor has borrowed a lot of stuff from Chicarron over the years and never gave back, including his van, mini-fridge, good napkins, lasso, and his femur.
  • Robin Hood (1973) has Robin Hood claim they're just borrowing from those who can afford it. Little John scoffs at this, saying they're seriously in debt.
  • The Wild: Nigel the Koala claims that he merely borrowed a Statue of Liberty toy lamp before anyone even asked where he found it from.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future:
    • Marty does this twice over the course of the trilogy. In the first movie, he snatches a kid's wood crate scooter (but not before tearing the top part off to make an improvised skateboard) to escape from Biff and his goons. He returns the board after he maneuvers Biff into the manure truck. In the next film, he repeats this act in the future with a little girl's hoverboard, though this time he's told he can keep it, as the girl has made off with Griff's "Pit Bull" model hoverboard, which she apparently considers a step up.
    • When Doc explains to Marty his plan to use a train to push the Delorean to the speed necessary for time travel in Back to the Future Part III, he puts it like this: "We're going to hijack... borrow... the locomotive.."
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap and Black Widow are on the run and take a road trip to New Jersey in search of answers. Widow is surprised that Captain America knows how to steal a car, but he gives the very pragmatic answer that he—y'know, used to fight a war in Nazi Germany. He also corrects her with this trope; they borrowed the car. He's still The Cape, after all.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Everett reveals that he stole a watch from Pete's treacherous cousin Wash. Pete is outraged that his cousin was robbed and Everett counters that Wash was planning on betraying them the whole time. Pete yells that Everett didn't know about the betrayal ahead of time and Everett fires back "so I borrowed until I did!"
  • Captain Jack Sparrow states in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl that he only borrowed Anna-Marie's ship, and had every intention of giving it back. It's heavily implied he sank it.
  • In The Rock, Mason escapes from FBI custody and hijacks a Humvee, leading to an extended Chase Scene through the streets of San Francisco. During the chase, the Humvee's owner calls Mason on the carphone and berates him for stealing his car, to which Mason retorts, "I'm only borrowing your Humvee!"
  • The Rocketeer: After Cliff and Peevey test the rocketpack, Cliff says "I don't want to keep it, I just want to borrow it for a while.", but Peevey retorts "Cliff, when you borrow something and you don't tell nobody, they call that stealing, you know.".
  • Slaughter in Xi'an has the film's policeman protagonist, Ho Yuan-Xing, "borrowing" a bicycle from a civilian while pursuing an escaped suspect, even asking "I'll need to borrow this, police business". What's even better is that Ho's subordinates actually holds down the bike's owner for him.
  • Discussed in Titanic (1997) when Jack is framed for stealing Cal's diamond and it's discovered that the coat Jack is wearing was the one he stole to sneak into First Class and talk to Rose.
    Jack: I just borrowed it. I was gonna return it.
    Cal: An honest thief. We have an honest thief here.

  • Lone Wolf: During Voyage of the Moonstone, in Cape Kabar, the travelling companions don't have enough money to buy five horses. The Grand Master is reluctant to commit horse thief, but Sligh manages to mollify him/her.
    Sligh: I respect your honesty, my lord, but surely you don't want to have to walk all the way to Bisutan? I'm not saying we steal five horses, I'm saying we just borrow them for a while. We can hire a rider to bring them back just as soon as we reach Bisutan.

  • Animorphs: The main characters are occasionally forced to steal things from innocent civilians in their guerrilla war against Puppeteer Parasites — most often clothes, since their shape-shifting abilities only work in thin leotards, which aren't great for blending in. They do try to later pay back what they took. Their Sixth Ranger David, however...
  • The BFG: At one point, the giant explains the reason he knows how to write is that he has a book by Charles Dickens which he borrowed from a human boy. When asked how long he's had it, he responds "Only about eighty years. Soon I shall be putting it back."
  • The Borrowers get their name from their insistence that they're borrowing when they take things from humans. Of course, they consider it stealing if a Borrower takes from another Borrower.
    The boy sat thoughtfully on his haunches, chewing a blade of grass. "Borrowing," he said after a while. "Is that what you call it?"
    "What else could you call it?" Asked Arrietty.
    "I'd call it stealing."
    Arrietty laughed. She really laughed. "But we are Borrowers," she explained, "like you're a-a human bean or whatever it's called. We're part of the house. You might as well say that the fire grate steals the coal from the coal scuttle."
    "Then what is stealing?"
    Arrietty looked grave. "Don't you know?" she asked. "Stealing is-well, supposing my Uncle Hendreary borrowed an emerald watch from Her dressing table and my father took it and hung it up on our wall. That's stealing."
    "An emerald watch!" exclaimed the boy.
    "Well, I just said that because we have one on the wall at home, but my father borrowed it himself. It needn't be a watch. It could be anything. A lump of sugar even. But Borrowers don't steal."
  • Captain Underpants: In the recap from "Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000", George and Harold "borrowed" a time machine from Melvin Sneedly without his permission. They used it to go back in time to take their exam, in which they missed.
  • The Famous Five: In Five Have Plenty of Fun, Jo asks to borrow Julian's bike. When he refuses, she takes Dick's bike instead, triumphantly ringing the bell as she rides away. Dick is angry at first, but mildly amused when she returns, especially as she cleans it.
    Jo: I'm sorry I took it, Dick.
    Dick: You're not a bit sorry, but I'll forgive you.
  • Harry Potter: Goblins offer an interesting cultural take on the concept. As master craftspeople, goblin-made objects are highly coveted by wizards, and they often become family heirlooms. The caveat is that goblins consider the true owner of an object to be the one who created it, and the purchaser as merely "renting" it. As Bill Weasley warns Harry when he embarks on a plan involving a particularly valuable goblin creation:
    Bill: "They have, however, great difficulty with the idea of goblin-made objects passing from wizard to wizard... it ought to have been returned to the goblins once the original purchaser died. They consider our habit of keeping goblin-made objects, passing them from wizard to wizard without further payment, little more than theft."
  • Marc-Uwe Kling: This is the Modus Operandi of the Kangaroo in the Kangaroo book tetralogy. This habit is Played for Laughs and goes from the Kangaroo "borrowing" Marc-Uwe's possessions and restaurant ashtrays in the first book to a minor plot point in the third one when they can successfully disguise themselves as penguins because the Kangaroo "borrowed" nun habits while visiting a monastery many chapters ago.
  • The Mistborn Adventures: Wayne never steals things, he trades for them. Albeit usually without telling people, and sometimes not leaving things equal in value (such as taking an unobtainium handgun that is also police evidence and leaving them a nice cobblestone in exchange).
  • Sesame Street: In the Ernie and the Twiddlebug Town Fair book, the Twiddlebugs prepare for their yearly town fair, but need something to use for a tent to shelter their feast. One night, two Twiddlebugs named Tilly and Titus find Ernie's bandana and decide to take it, but bring it back to him after the fair ends, since they only take things that have been lost and forgotten long ago. Sure enough, when Ernie tries to play cowboy the next day, he is unable to find his bandana even though he looks everywhere. Fortunately for him, Tilly and Titus return his bandana the following night.
  • Skate the Thief: Skate is told this is her new job, and Belamy is insistent that he does mean that the books should be returned when he's done with them.
    Skate: “You invite them over to steal from them.”
    Belamy: “Borrow!” he insisted, “to borrow from them."
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: The novella "The Maleficent Seven" has two of the heroes who were responsible for getting transport stealing a jet. They claim the jet is "Not stolen, almost stolen, semi-stolen, quasi-stolen" before they claim that they technically always borrow because what they take is always returned, just not always in one piece or to the right person.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brittas Empire: In "The Chop", Helen borrows from petty cash so that she can buy a dog, but doesn't ask Brittas first as he would have said no. Brittas has to point out that it still counts as stealing, a fact that Helen claims she has never been told.
  • In the Burn Notice pilot episode, Michael makes the following remarks about stealing cars:
    Michael: I don't like stealing cars, but sometimes it's necessary. I have rules, though: I'll keep it clean, and if I take your car on a work day, I'll have it back by five.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Big Bang", the Doctor claims he "borrowed" the TARDIS. This is at least partly to give Amy a buried memory of the TARDIS keyed to the Old, New, Borrowed and Blue rhyme. It's eventually Lampshaded by the TARDIS herself in "The Doctor's Wife"; "Borrowing implies the intent to return the thing that was taken. And what makes you think that I would ever give you back?"
  • In Father Ted, Craggy Island is used by the Church as a sort of penal colony on the edge of Ireland. it houses priests who are morally deficient, or else so embarrassing or inept that they can't be seen in a parish where there are people. Father Ted Crilly is there because of a lingering controversy concerning his stewardship of Church funds. Although he complains that
    That money was only ever resting in my bank account!
  • House of Anubis: After Amber caught Patricia trying to sneak away with Nina's locket, which she'd stolen directly from breaking into their bedroom and digging into Nina's coat pockets, Patricia insisted that she was only borrowing it and that she planned to give it back. As this had come after a while of Patricia pettily bullying Nina, nobody else believed her to have good intentions... despite that, on this occasion, she actually did.
  • Leverage:
    • Inverted in one episode:
      Nate: Let's go steal the Department of Defense.
      Parker: Isn't that treason?
      Nate: We'll give it back.
    • In the episode "The Bottle Job", when asked if they're going to steal a wake, Nate insists that they're only borrowing it, if only out of respect.
  • Psych has a Running Gag where Shawn will take something that belongs to Gus without asking for his permission. Gus usually reacts with mild annoyance to this.
  • Sherlock inverts this in "A Scandal in Belgravia". Sherlock says that if he wanted to look at naked women, he'd borrow John's computer. John retorts that Sherlock does borrow it. Sherlock then states, "I confiscate it."
  • In Star Trek:
    • Incorrigible larcenist Harry Mudd from Star Trek: The Original Series recounts how he managed to escape from a Federation penal colony to Captain Kirk and Mister Spock.
      Harry Mudd: I... borrowed transportation...
      Captain Kirk: He stole a starship!
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Treachery, Faith and the Great River", Captain Sisko's desk disappears. It reappears again, and it turns out that Nog borrowed it without permission in order to allow a third party to take a holographic photo of himself sitting at it, which in turn started a Chain of Deals which got Nog's boss, Chief O'Brien, a necessary piece of equipment which he needed urgently.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode "The Minstrels", Red decides to take Cantus' magic pipe to find out what her song is. She tells Mokey this isn't stealing but borrowing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance setting, one common excuse kender use to explain their thefts is that they were just borrowing the item and intended to return it. Sometimes they will claim that the victim left before they could give it back.

    Video Games 
  • Flight Rising: Ridgeback dragons have an entire culture around stealing resources by using tunnels and traps to secure whatever they need, which they consider "borrowing" much to the annoyance of other dragons. If caught, they usually just shrug it off and insist that they would've returned it upon being asked. This mindset was developed thanks to living in a desert.
  • Genshin Impact: the Traveller and Venti return the Holy Lyre der Himmel to the Church after stealing it in order to use it to save Mondstadt, but sadly in a broken condition, much to the distress of Barbara who receives it from them, thinking that Barbatos would never forgive her for the Lyre's condition, not knowing Venti is her god Barbatos, and is the one responsible for it breaking in the first place. Venti does feel extremely uncomfortable about this.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom: Upon meeting Squidward at Sand Mountain, SpongeBob asks to borrow his toothbrush again, causing Squidward to ask if he used it before, which SpongeBob states he figured Squidward wouldn't mind if he didn't know. After clearing the robots from all the slopes for Squidward, he expresses intent to grab his equipment to ski, only for SpongeBob to reveal he loaned Squidward's equipment to Patrick, again saying he figured Squidward wouldn't mind.
    Squidward: Wouldn't mind? Of course I mind! It is the most expensive ski equipment on the market! And what would Patrick want with that stuff anyway? He doesn't even know how to ski.
    Patrick: I want the warm now!
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon: The plot of Seashell Shore is kicked off by three seals borrowing the submarine of the Rhynocs without asking, taking it for a joyride, and totaling the sub on a rock pile. They explain it to the Rhynocs, thinking that they'll take the story in stride, but unfortunately for the seals, the Rhynocs proceed to throw them in a jail cell.
  • Marisa Kirisame from Touhou Project always justifies her kleptomaniac habits with the statement that she's not stealing; she's borrowing them until she dies. Of course, that's ignoring the fact that she's looking for ways to become immortal.
  • Yandere Simulator: When Ayano is caught stealing things from the Faculty Room and sent to the guidance counselor, she has the option to lie, claiming that she wasn't stealing, but borrowing. The guidance counselor sees immediately through the lie.

  • Sam Starfall from Mark Stanley's Freefall borrows Pop Rivit's flatbed truck in chapter four to retrieve materials from the abandoned colony ship. It's borrowing, according to Sam, because instead of simply driving away with it, he pounded on Pop's door at 4:00 in the morning to apprise him, "Hey, Pop, we've got your truck!" then driving off before Pop can stop him.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Chapter 31 begins with Renard questioning Annie over the stolen homework, to which Annie replies that she didn't copy it, Kat allowed her to borrow her work.

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: One episode has Spot and co. do this with Cruella's car, arguing that as long they return it in one piece, they should be okay.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: "Big Daddy" begins with Coconuts borrowing Dr. Robotnik's Egg-O-Matic hovercraft without the latter's permission in an unsuccessful attempt to catch Sonic with it. When Coconuts accidentally destroys the Egg-O-Matic, Robotnik finds out it's missing and accuses Coconuts of stealing it when the latter says that he borrowed it. When Scratch and Grounder bring the wrecked Egg-O-Matic back, Robotnik is furious and sends Coconuts on a permanent vacation as punishment.
  • Camp Lazlo: In "Lazlo Loves a Parade", Lazlo "borrows" various objects from around Prickly Pines to make a Camp Kidney float for the town's annual parade. When the Squirrel Scouts steal the float, they end up getting the blame for the thefts.
  • Franklin: Franklin takes his school's toy school bus and tries to justify it by claiming he "borrowed it without asking".
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: A Running Gag has Jackie running up to random people's bicycles to chase the villains, shouting, 'I'm sorry, I'll bring this back later, thank youuuu!' as he speeds off. He never returns the bicycle.
  • Johnny Test: The plot of most episodes is kicked off by Johnny "borrowing" one of Susan and Mary's weapons or other inventions, typically without considering the consequences of potentially dangerous technology. While he does sometimes come up with miraculous solutions to the problems he causes, just as often others are forced to clean up his mess.
  • Kim Possible: In an episode, Ron takes Kim's suit and insists that he didn't steal it, he just borrowed it in secret. At the end of the episode, he's forced to admit that he actually did steal it.
  • League of Super Evil: In "The Bank Job", the League of Super Evil are about to rob a supervillain bank since they have no money. Red Menace tells Voltar that robbing the bank is wrong, but he said they are going to "borrow" the money.
  • My Adventures with Superman: [1]
    Lois Lane: I can get us in, but you have to promise not to be upset.
    Clark Kent: Why would I—?
    Lois reveals the "borrowed" press badges.
    Clark: You stole their badges?!
    Lois: No! I borrowed them. Secretly, when they weren't looking.
    Clark: That's the definition of stealing!.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:
    • In "The Good, the Bad, and the Tigger", Christopher Robin goes downstairs for lunch. Before he got down, he told his friends not to touch his electric train until he gets back. Tigger wants to play with it but Pooh tells him not to. He tells Pooh that he's going to borrow it without Christopher Robin's permission.
    • In "Lights Out" Rabbit borrows Gopher's mining helmet without asking in order to do some late-night gardening and accidentally ends up losing it the next morning.
  • Rugrats: In "The Seven Voyages of Cynthia", Tommy and Chuckie are playing in a stream of water and make a sailboat from a piece of fence and a sign for peas from Drew's garden. However, they need a toy to be the captain of their boat. When Tommy sees Cynthia, the favorite doll of Angelica, his older cousin, he decides to use her. Chuckie, knowing that Cynthia is Angelica's doll, doesn't think using her is such a good idea, but Tommy tells him that they'll only need her for a little while and he will return her to Angelica when he's done with her. Unfortunately, while playing with Cynthia, the boat accidentally goes down a sewer drain, eventually winding up in a garbage dump. When Angelica finds out that Cynthia has gone missing, Tommy and Chuckie wonder whether or not they should tell her that they accidentally lost her, especially when she threatens to beat up whoever took her. They eventually confess when Angelica throws a funeral for Cynthia, but just before Angelica can beat them black and blue, Spike returns with Cynthia, having found her at the dump.
  • The Simpsons: A Running Gag throughout the series is Homer "borrowing" various items from Ned Flanders, without ever giving them back.
    • "Lisa's First Word" reveals that Homer's first interaction with Ned (eight years ago) was asking to borrow his brand new TV tray, which he still has to this day.
    • "Bull-E" has this as a major plot point. Rod and Todd ask Ned why Homer never gives back the items he borrows; this leads Ned to realize that Homer is just a bully who's taking advantage of them.
  • Spider-Man Unlimited: Spiderman's suit is stored in his wristwatch and consists of nanobots that cover him head-to-toe when he opens the watch. It also has sonic weapons that can harm Venom and Carnage, and can even turn invisible. In his narration, he says this suit was "discreetly borrowed from the lab of Reed Richards."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Life of Crime" has Mr. Krabs tell SpongeBob that it's appropriate to borrow anything without asking so long as it's returned before the owner finds out it was borrowed. The same episode later had SpongeBob and Patrick "borrowing" a balloon from a balloon seller and planning on giving it back later. However, it then pops, causing the two to panic and think of themselves as thieves. Later in the episode, it's revealed that it was Free Balloon Day.
    • In "Squid's Visit", SpongeBob wants Squidward to visit his house, so he asks Patrick if Squidward ever visited his house. Patrick tells him that Squidward only visited his house once, to take back some things he borrowed. He then suggests to SpongeBob that he should borrow something of Squidward's, so Squidward will have to come over to get it back. Following Patrick's advice, SpongeBob borrows Squidward's vacuum cleaner, and when Squidward notices, he calls SpongeBob to ask why he stole his vacuum cleaner. SpongeBob tells Squidward that he didn't steal it, he borrowed it.
  • VeggieTales: In "The Star of Christmas", Calvis talks his reluctant partner Milward into stealing the titular star for their play by saying they're only "borrowing" it. In the sequel, after their Heel–Face Turn, he tries to use this logic to justify shutting down Mr. Nezzer's factory by taking a machine piece, albeit for altruistic intentions this time.

    Real Life 
  • This defense was the reason that the United Kingdom created TWOC (Taking WithOut Consent) laws in regards to vehicle theft, as theft statutes generally only covered crimes where the intent is to permanently deprive the victim of their property. Taking a car for a drive and then abandoning it wasn't technically a crime until these laws were created.


Video Example(s):



Zagreus learns the hard way of what happens when he "borrows" stuff from Charon.

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Main / ShopliftAndDie

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