Understanding How to Use Learnt vs. Learned in American and British English

by Arushi Gupta
learnt vs learned

The pairs of words that are confused because of the different usages In British and American English are many, with learnt vs. learned being one of them. Let’s understand how to use the two words correctly as you use them in research writing.

Difference between learnt and learned

In terms of meaning, there is no difference between learn and learned. They are both past tense forms of the verb ‘learn’, and are used to indicate that someone has acquired knowledge or a skill through study or experience. However, learnt is the more common spelling in British English, while learned is more commonly used in American English.

Learnt vs. learned examples

Here are a few examples of how learnt and learned can be used in sentences:

  • British English: I learnt a lot about research methods during my PhD program.
  • American English: I learned a lot about research methods during my PhD program.

  • British English: She has always been a quick learner and has easily learnt new software programs.
  • American English: She has always been a quick learner and has easily learned new software programs.

  • British English: The research team learnt that their initial hypothesis was incorrect.
  • American English: The research team learned that their initial hypothesis was incorrect.
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The exception: Learned as an adjective

The exception to using learnt or learned is in the case of the adjective “learned,” which means having acquired knowledge through study or experience. For example,

“She is a learned scholar in the field of mathematics” means that the person has acquired a great deal of knowledge and expertise in the subject.

In this case, using learnt would not be appropriate, as it is a past tense verb form and cannot be used as an adjective.

Similar examples are:

  • He has become a very learned individual in the field of physics.
  • The book is a testament to the author’s learned research and analysis.

In conclusion, learned is used in American English whereas learnt is more often used when writing in British English. So the next time you find yourself perplexed as to which word to use, remember that both words are correct and you only have to think of the format you are writing your research in.

If this helped you, do not forget to read more such interesting comparisons:

Inter vs. intra

Idea vs. concept

Example vs. sample

Too vs. to

Few vs. a few

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