Learnt vs. Learned | Difference & Example Sentences

Learnt and learned are two different spellings of the past tense of the verb “learn,” which means “gain knowledge or skill” or “come to be able to do something.” The spelling tends to vary based on whether you use US or UK English:

  • In UK English, “learnt” is standard.
  • In US English, “learned” is more common.
Examples: Learnt and learned in a sentence
Kayla recently learnt/learned how to drive a car.

In school, I learnt/learned how to speak French.

Jamie hasn’t learnt/learned how to dance yet.

The students learnt/learned about the history of the Capitol.

In UK English, “learn” is an irregular verb, meaning that the past tense is not formed by adding the standard “-ed” suffix. In US English, “learn” is a regular verb (i.e., the past tense is formed by adding “-ed”).

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Learned: Adjective

Learned can be used as an adjective meaning “knowledgeable” or “scholarly.” When learned is used in this way, it’s pronounced with two syllables, with emphasis placed on the first: [lur-nid]. For this meaning, the spelling is always learned, even in UK English.

Examples: Learned as an adjective
Amia is a learned scholar who is an expert in multiple ancient languages.

You cannot become learned if you don’t study a lot.

When learned/learnt is used as an adjective simply meaning “acquired by learning” (e.g., in the phrase “learned/learnt helplessness”), it can be spelled either way and is pronounced as one syllable.

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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.