Learned or Learnt?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Learned" and "Learnt"?

"Learned" and "learnt" are both acceptable past forms of "to learn". However, here is some guidance to help you decided whether to write "learned" or "learnt":
  • If you're following US writing conventions, use "learned."
  • If you're following UK writing conventions, use "learnt."
If you're describing someone as educated, you must use "learned." In this meaning, "learned" is a two-syllable word.
learned or learnt?

More about "Learned" and "Learnt"

The verb "to learn" means to acquire knowledge of, or skill in, something through study or experience.

"To learn" is one of those verbs with both an irregular form and a regular form.
VerbPast SimplePast Participle
learnlearned OR learntlearned OR learnt
As shown in the table, the past tense and the past participle can be written as either "learned" or "learnt." However, they are not interchangeable, especially in the US.

Americans Demand "Learned"

In America, "learned" dominates. The use of "learnt" as the past tense or past participle of "to learn" is considered a spelling mistake by many. It will certainly annoy a fair proportion of your readers.

Brits Prefer "Learnt"

Outside America, "learnt" is more common, but "learned" is generally accepted. (This is almost certainly a result of American influence spreading.)

Verbs with Irregular and Regular Forms

The following verbs (like "to learn") can be regular or irregular:
VerbPast SimplePast Participle
burnburned OR burntburned OR burnt
dreamdreamed OR dreamtdreamed OR dreamt
hanghung
also hanged
hung
also hanged
smellsmelled OR smeltsmelled OR smelt
spellspelled OR speltspelled OR spelt
As with "learnt," the second form (e.g. "spelt," "dreamt") is more common in British English.

A Video Summary

Here's a quick video summarizing this lesson on "learned" and "learnt":

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? dived and dove e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? hanged and hung imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? spelled and spelt tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are regular verbs? What are regular verbs? What is the past tense? What are past participles? List of easily confused words

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