Learned vs. Learnt

  angbeenc  —  Grammar Tips

What is the past tense of learn? Consider the following sentence:

I learnt French last year.

Are you getting thoughts in your mind that say that this sentence has got something wrong in it? Maybe it’s the use of past form of learn. Is your inner nerd telling you that the learnt should have been learned in the above sentence? Well, if it is, then you are not to blame and nor has your inner nerd leading you to irrational decisions. Learn in its past form can be written as learnt or learned. This article will throw light on the correct usage and examples of learn along with some information on why the earth has blessed us with two past forms of learn knowing that our minds are indolent beasts.

Learn as verb:

Adapted from the Old English leornian, learn is used as a verb in English language which means to gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught. The above example uses learn in the context of gaining skill. Learn also implies committing to a memory as in I'd learnt too many grim poems in school. Becoming aware of (something) by information or from observation is also known as learning.

She learnt that her mother has gone out.

Learned as adjective:

The similar meaning of learn is implied when the word is used as an adjective with an –ed at the end. A person who has acquired much knowledge through study is a learned person. A learned and intelligent woman. Learned is also acquired to symbolize a thing that has shown, required, or characterized by learning or is scholarly.

The learned article opened everyone’s eyes.

You must have noticed that this article has made use of learnt, whenever the verb is required in the past tense. The learnt and learned are both the acceptable forms of learn’s past tense and you are allowed to use any in your writings. Learned is the more common past tense and past participle of the verb learn. Learnt is a variant especially common outside North America. Learnt however is more common in British than America and Canada and is considered informal.


What’s more, I learnt that it is possible for scientists to influence these enquiries. (Guardian)

But, just like Peter Siddle, he has learnt tricks from other sports. (Telegraph)

As a result of both, I have learnt a number of lessons (some of them the hard way). (Financial Times)

He learned to read at a little schoolhouse where his parents had gone as well. (NY Times)

Although many new mothers think breastfeeding will be natural, it is a learned skill, she said. (News.com.au)

During his stay, he has learned that some things remain the same as on earth. (CBC.ca)

Learned or Learnt:

When writing your pieces you can use any of the two learn’s past and past participle terms depending on your origin and preference but make sure that whatever you choose, you stick with it through your entire writing. Learned is used as a verb as well as an adjective but learnt (with a t) is only used as a verb. You may have learned or learnt the historic dates of major events but you cannot be a learnt person. You will always be a learned person.

Have you learnt the difference between two past forms of learn? We hope this learnt article was helpful.


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