Learnt Or Learned – British vs. American English

13.11.23 British English vs. American English Time to read: 3min

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Learnt-or-learned-01
Maintaining consistency in academic writing is crucial to ensure coherence and clarity of the content throughout your paper. However, many students often struggle with distinguishing between British English vs. American English, which can cause confusion in choosing the correct spelling, such as “learnt” or “learned”. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the distinctions between these two English styles, kindly proceed with your reading.

“Learnt” or “learned”

“Learnt” and “learned” are both the past tense and past participle forms of the verb “learn.” To “learn” means to acquire knowledge or gain understanding through study, instruction, or experience. It involves the process of obtaining information, skills, or insights that were previously unknown. They are used interchangeably, and the choice between them often depends on regional variations in English. “Learnt” is commonly used in British English, while “learned” is more common in American English. However, it’s important to note that both forms are generally accepted in standard English, and there is no strict rule dictating which one should be used in which version of English.

Learnt or Learned UK flag

British English

learnt

Learnt or Learned US flag

American English

learned

Both forms are correct and widely recognized, but it’s recommended to use the form that is consistent with the regional variant of English you are writing or speaking. In some cases, style guides or specific publications may have preferences for one form over the other, so it’s a good practice to follow their guidelines when applicable.

Examples of using “learnt” and “learned”

The following examples will illustrate the difference in the spelling of the verb “learnt/learned” in British and American English.

Learnt or Learned-verb UK flag
  • She learnt to play the piano when she was a child.
  • I learnt a lot about history during my visit to the museum.
  • They have learnt from their mistakes and are now more careful.
Learnt or Learned-verb US flag
  • She learned to play the piano when she was a child.
  • I learned a lot about history during my visit to the museum.
  • They have learned from their mistakes and are now more careful.

“Learnt” or “learned” as an adjective

“Learned” can also be used as an adjective. In this case, the word indicates someone being “scholarly” or “knowledgeable”. The following examples illustrate its use in a sentence.

Learnt or Learned-adjective UK flag
  • The professor delivered a learned lecture.
  • He is a learned scholar in literature.
  • He’s a learned scholar.
Learned-adjective US flag

Note: Only the US variant “learned” is used when applying “learnt/learned” as an adjective!

FAQs

Both “I learnt” and “I learned” are correct, but their usage can vary by regional preference. “Learnt” is more common in British English, while “learned” is more common in American English. However, both forms are widely accepted, and you can choose the one that aligns with your regional or personal style.

In the UK, “learnt” is more commonly used, although “learned” is also accepted and can be used. The choice between them may vary based on regional or personal preferences, but “learnt” is the more common spelling in British English.

Yes, writing “learnt” is grammatically correct, especially in British English. It is the past tense and past participle form of the verb “learn” and is widely accepted in standard English. However, it’s important to be consistent with regional spelling conventions.

In Australia, both “learnt” and “learned” are commonly used and accepted. However, if you look up the verb “learn” in The Australian Oxford Dictionary and the Macquarie Dictionary, you will find “learned” appearing before “learnt”.

The British use “learnt” as the past tense and past participle of “learn” due to linguistic tradition and historical language development. It’s a common convention in British English, and the choice of “learnt” aligns with the spelling and pronunciation patterns of British English. This spelling is also influenced by irregular verbs in English, where the past tense forms don’t always follow regular patterns.

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