Learned or learnt?

Hello lovely students! 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-syllabled words come up in conversation and you may have even thought, what is the difference?

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

Group of school kids, sitting in classroom and raising hands

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!


Simple past tense

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.

Past participle

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 something interesting: learned as an adjective.

Learned as an adjective

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

Take the sentence below 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 very 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.

Is that everything?

Absolutely not. I hope you have learned/learnt a lot. Check out the video below on my YouTube channel English with Lucy.