Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Learned and Learnt

english-dictionary-pdLearned vs Learnt

Learned could refer to a person as a way to describe them ‘“ thus an adjective. Learnt could refer to an activity a person has done, thus a verb. Both of the words are very similar, and can be alternatively used while still being grammatically correct. Example: ‘He is a very accomplished and learned man’, to refer to a scholar. Similarly: ‘He has traveled wide, and has learnt many languages’, could also refer to the same scholar.

Notice the use of the former as an adjective before the mention of the person, and in the latter case, as a verb after the mention of the person and before the mention of the activity the person has done. ‘Learn’ is to ‘learnt’ as ‘burn’ is to ‘burnt’, i.e. the past state of the root word. Another example for ‘learned’: ‘I learned and earned in Bombay’. Here, ‘learnt’ could just as easily have been used ‘“ ‘I learnt and earned in Bombay’, but using the substitute alternative word ‘learned’ is better, since it rhymes, and gives the message more impact, so to say.

Let us probe a few more usage examples: ‘Of all the things I have learned, I value computer education the most’- to use ‘learnt’ instead of learned in the same place in the same sentence would be wrong. However, it would not be wrong to use learnt by modifying and rephrasing the sentence: ‘Of all the things I learnt, computer education was the most valuable’. Notice here, in this great example, how the fine difference between the usage of both the words comes out like night and day; while learned refers to a moment in time quite near the present, learnt was used to describe something a little bit in the past.

Thus, exact distinctions may be difficult to put in words, but examples of correct usage can help one understand the fine and minute, but solid differences. Like many other pairs of similar English words, learned is old-age, while learnt is new-age, current and contemporary. If you try the pronunciation you will instantly find ‘learned’ to be slightly more difficult than ‘learnt’, since the latter is the evolution of the former.


1) Both words have the same root ‘“ ‘learn’. ‘Learned’ is mostly used as an adjective, and ‘learnt’ as a verb.

2) ‘Learned’ is a bit difficult and old compared to its new cousin ‘learnt’.

3) They are very similar, thus when in doubt use the thumb rule to use ‘learned’ for things near in time, and ‘learnt’ for things further in time.

4) Usage also depends on which substitutes rhymes or not, depending upon the cosmetic outlook of the sentence, in which either of the two might be used.

5) Learned usually refers to a scholar.

6) Further usage examples: ‘To be learned is to be secure’, ‘To have learnt a lesson from the mistakes of others, is to have insured oneself against the same possible trouble’. ‘I learnt today’ and ‘I met a very learned group of professors today’.

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  1. I am sorry but I disagree with the main idea of this text. Both can be used as verbs and mainly because LEARNT is the most common form of the verb in the UK and LEARNED in US English. Americans use both forms, however. There’s no difference at all between these 2 words when used as the past form if “learn”. Thank you. Just my 2 cents!

    • Completely agree with Dennys. LearnEd, with the emphasised Ed often shown by an accent, is an adjective. Learned and Learnt are both past participles of the verb To Learn. Common usage has them interchangeable, though it is possible that they are active and passive in a similar way to burned/burnt.

  2. I also note that there is a contradiction.
    One sould use ‘learned for recent past’, yet the writer uses ‘learnt’ for something that occurred today ???

    I agree with Pal – follow similar rules for burned and burnt.

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