Learned or learnt?

Sometimes the English language can be tricky even for native speakers and knowing the difference between learned and learnt is often challenging. You may have heard these one-syllable words come up in conversation and you may have even thought, what is the difference?

Continue reading below for more on ‘learned vs learnt’ This is not something you want to miss out on.

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What do learned and learnt mean?

The words ‘learned and learnt’ are past tense forms of the verb learn – which is to acquire knowledge. ‘Learned’ is more common in American English whereas ‘learnt’ is more common in British English.

Both the spelling and the pronunciation are different. ‘Learnt’ has a hard ‘t’ sound at the end (lɜːnt). On the other hand, the American ‘learned’ has a much softer ending. It does not have two syllables and it is not pronounced as ler ned.

Instead, it is said as one syllable and more emphasis is put on the ‘d’ (lɜːnd).

Even though the pronunciation is different, you must remember that the two words are not different at all when they refer to the past tense of the verb learn.

Are you ready to look at the two forms in more detail? Let’s go!


As mentioned above, we use this as the past tense of learn, such as in these examples.

I learnt how to sing when I was nine.

I learnt many things from my French teacher.

We also use this in the past participle form.

I have learnt how to sew.

He has learnt how to ride a bicycle.

Pretty simple right? Let’s move on to learned.

Learned as a verb

Pronunciation and spelling is not the only difference between learned vs learnt: you can also use learned as an adjective. But more on that further down. First, look at the verb examples of the word below.

Simple past tense

I learned American English when I moved to Florida 20 years ago.

I learned Spanish at university.

Past participle

They have learned a lot more than you

We have learned a world of knowledge thanks to Professor White.

See here that learned as a verb is used in the exact same way as learnt.

Now onto the exception: learnt as an adjective.

Learned as an adjective

You use ‘learned’ as an adjective when you want to describe someone as being educated.

Take this example for instance: Heather is a very learned woman. Not only does she have a degree from one of the top universities, but she has also travelled a lot.

When you want to use learned as an adjective, the pronunciation is different to learned as a verb. Rather than it being pronounced as one, we pronounce it in two separate parts so it sounds like ‘ler ned’ (lɜː(r)nɪd).

The spelling is the exact same and should you choose to use it instead of educated, form your sentence like this: subject + verb to be + learned.

This adjective is used the same in British or American English.

Take 5: create sentences with learnt, learned and learned (adjective). Practice the pronunciation differences. Record them and play them back.

An extra thing to know

‘Learned’ is now becoming increasingly popular in the English-speaking world, and we even use it in British English from time to time as well as learnt. This can be confusing when you are learning the English language, but if you remember that learned and learnt are the same in verb form it is easier.

We hope you have learned/learnt a lot. Check out this video for more information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONIbcUI0Fqc