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24 / 11 / 2008

LEARN vs. LEARNT: meaning and examples

Good morning. I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

We have received another interesting question from Belén and Christian, two Ziggurat students who are currently studying English abroad. Today's question is much easier than the differences between Rise, Arise and Raise. Here is their newest question.

Nosotros pensábamos que learned y learnt querían decir lo mismo y se usaban indistintamente, sin embargo la gente de aquí dice que hay una sutil diferencia en el modo de usarlas, pero no nos lo saben explicar. Muchas gracias por la ayuda y recuerdos para todos!!!!
Belén y Christian.

Both learned and learnt are different forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb TO LEARN. The basic difference between these two alternative spellings is that learned is more common in US English and learnt is more common in UK English. However, depending on the dialect, you can see variation. (For example, a Canadian friend of mine says he uses both.)

There are other verbs that act the same way. Again, the -ed version of these past tense or past participle forms is more common in the US and the -t ending is more common in the UK. All of the following verbs are irregular.

--> burned-burnt
--> dreamed-dreamt
--> kneeled-knelt
--> leaned-leant
--> leaped-leapt
--> spelled-spelt
--> spilled-spilt
--> spoiled-spoilt

Example 1 (UK):
I've been studying English for 10 years and I feel like I haven't learnt a thing.

Example 2 (US):
I've been studying English for 10 years and I feel like I haven't learned a thing.

So, Belén and Christian, if a native speaker told you there is a subtle difference between these two, but they couldn't explain this difference, it's probably because there really isn't much of a difference. That's how languages are...they are constantly evolving and changing. Maybe you've discovered a linguistic change in motion. ;-)

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Have a great day!

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