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Understanding Learned vs. Learnt (Definition, Examples)

Is the word “learnt” correct? Is it used in American English? Why is it accepted in some countries and not all countries? The difference between “learned” and “learnt” isn’t bountiful. Although, interesting. And helps to establish our foundation for the American English vocabulary off its British and UK roots.

Learn the difference between “learnt” and “learned” in this grammar worksheet…

Is “learnt” a word?

The word ‘learn’ is a verb that means to get knowledge or skills. The past tense and the past participle of the word learn is ‘learned.’ The example below will illustrate this point:

  • I learned how to use computers when I was 8 years.

Is ‘learnt’ correct? Is there a word in the dictionary called ‘learnt’? To know the answer to this question, we need to know how English is spoken and written worldwide.

There are commonly two forms of English—American English and British English.

British English is practiced in the UK. It is also practiced in many other countries of the world.

These countries are part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Sentence example
Sentence example

These nations have been ruled in the past by Britain. It was Britain that introduced English to these nations. Meaning, it is natural that they follow the same rules and structure in the UK.

The countries where British English is followed include India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Ireland.

Worldwide differences

The other form of English is American English. There are many differences in spelling and usage of words in American English.

This form of English originated in the US after it became independent from the UK. It is practiced throughout the US (North America) and Canada (and the Caribbean).

The difference between “learned” and “learnt” is simply a difference British and American Enligh preferred spelling. In American English, the word is used as “learned.” This is the proper form. In British English, people use “learnt.”

The word “learnt” does exist in the dictionary but is not used in the US. Use “learned” when writing for American English readers and writers.

Learned (adjective) /ˈlərnəd/(of a person) having much knowledge acquired by study.
Learnt (verb) /lərn/gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.

Let’s look at some examples to understand how the word is used:

  • Tom learned the art of business from his uncle. He would spend his free time watching his uncle deal with customers as a kid.
  • I learned a lot of things about French culture during my stay in Paris.
  • What have you learned during your internship?

Definition of “learned”

The word learned is the past participle and past tense of the verb ‘learn.’ It refers to acquiring knowledge. The past participle can also be used as an adjective.

The definition of the word learned as an adjective is as follows:

“Erudite or characterized by or associated with learning.”

For example: He is a learned scholar.

In this sentence, learned is used as an adjective.

When to use “learned”

Use “learned” when using the past tense form of the word learn. And are writing American English.

When you use it as an adjective, use “learned.” A good rule of thumb is to avoid using ‘learnt’ as an adjective even in British English.

Examples in sentences

The following are examples of the use of learned as an adjective:

  • The Prime Minister is a very learned man. He was an economist of international fame before he got into politics.
  • “Learned sir, I welcome you to our institution. It would be an honor to hear you speak,” said the student in his welcome speech.
Sentence example
Sentence example

Is it “lessons learned” or “lessons learnt”

“Lessons learned” refers to lessons a person acquires from education, experience, or any other source (like life). A common question is whether it should be “lessons learned” or “lessons learnt.” Let’s try to understand this.

When used as an adjective, “learned” is the proper form.

However, when used as the past tense of learn, “learned” is used in American English.

It is only in British English that “learnt” gets used.

“Lessons learned” is the preferred form. If you follow British English (or are in the UK), you can use “lessons learnt.” Although “lessons learned” is the more popular form of spelling the idiom.

This phrase is used to refer to things you have learned. The following examples explain how this is used:

  • There are many lessons learned and experiences that I would like to share with you.
  • The lessons learned during my first year at college were invaluable.

How to remember which word to use

The word learned can get used as an adjective to refer to someone erudite or full of knowledge. In this case, use the word “learned.” Avoid using “learnt.”

For example: Dr. Samuel is one of the most learned historians of our times. The research and studies he has carried out are stupendous.

“Learned” can also get used as a verb and the past tense form of the base word learn.

  • American English: I learned my lesson the hard way after committing one mistake.
  • British English: I learnt my lesson the hard way after committing one mistake.

While “learnt’ isn’t incorrect, it simply isn’t used in American English.


  1. Learned or Learnt?
  2. Lessons Learnt or Learned?
  3. “Learnt” vs. “Learned”: Learn the Difference
  4. Learned vs, learnt

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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