1. animefans12
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    animefans12 Member

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    "Learnt" or "Learned"?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by animefans12, Jul 28, 2011.

    I'm not sure if this question has been asked and if it has been, feel free to delete this thread.

    Anyhow, I'm really confused by the correct past tense version of "learn." I've seen people say "learnt" while others say "learned." So... what's right? Or are they both right, but used at a specific time?
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    In American english the correct past tense of learn is learned. In other countries learnt is often used but I also see learned, so I don't know the rules there. Since you're in Florida, the answer for you, of course, is learned.
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Learnt" is an older variant of "learned". They mean the same thing, but "learned" is preferred in American English. E.g, "I learned how to ride a bike yesterday, but I haven't learned how to break yet."

    "Learned" can also mean "educated", as in "He's a learned man". In those instances, the second "e" is pronounced.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Seconded (I, too, live in Florida)
     
  5. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    Either is right, unless the above-mentioned criterion apply. I only typed this to use above-mentioned... lol.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you are American, both forms are perfectly correct, with 'learnt' in fact being far more common. My US Word spellcheck doesn't accept it, or 'leapt', but it accepts knelt, burnt, crept, smelt, kept, felt, meant... The form has stayed with some words in the US, but not others.
    Confusing (for Americans).
     
  7. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    You can check things such as this in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster says "learned" is your only choice (for U.S. markets). But the dictionary will give you all the forms of the word: past, present, adjectival, etc. so you can refer to that when you're not sure.

    My preference, personally, is that, when I'm given the choice of using the verb as a regular or irregular verb, I'll always go with the regular form. For instance, "burned" and "burnt" are both acceptable, so I go with "burned." Pick your own style, write it down, and be consistent with it.
     
  8. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes I take a couple of steps back and think, if this is how native speakers struggle, how do people learning this stupid language feel? :p
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same here - if I have a choice, I try to use the simplest and most modern form.

    As a non-native speaker, I'm encouraged by the fact that natives make mistakes :)
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if used in dialog and your character would use 'learnt' then it's ok... in narrative it's not, if you intend to be published in the us, though it might be ok, in the uk...
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, the Oxford Style Guide (British English, of course, because it's not referring to Oxford, Mississippi) says that they are equally acceptable. It also says they're both acceptable in American English too, but that "learnt" is uncommon there. It seems that it has grown so uncommon in the USA that it is dying out.
     
  12. Knight's Move
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    Knight's Move Member

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    I've had this discussion before with my mother (who is a linguist), and I may be imagining things, but the -t and the -ed ending, although interchangeable, sometimes seem more appropriate in different contexts from each other.

    Example:

    "Today we learned about frogs."
    "Today we learnt about frogs."

    To me, the first one sounds better and more natural because the learning process was ongoing, not an act of a moment. I'm not entirely sure why.

    Another example:

    "I burnt my hand."
    "I burned my hand."

    To me, the first one sounds like an accident, and the second one sounds like I deliberately burned my hand.

    Am I the only one who sees these slight differences?
     
  13. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very fine observation. Now you mention it, I can see that too.

    Certainly, in both cases, the ed ending suggests a process and the t ending suggests an event, a happening.

    The spoken t ending is rather more emphatic, more abrupt, than the ed one, which might begin to explain it.
     
  14. Knight's Move
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    Knight's Move Member

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    I think that it is possible that at one time there was a clear distinction between these two forms, but it is being lost from the language. I would guess that this is happening faster in America, judging by what madhoca said.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lol - no, "burnt" and "burned" mean exactly the same thing. Any dictionary will tell you that.

    No, "burnt", "learnt", "dreamt" etc are British English, used in the UK.

    "Burned," "Learned," and "dreamed" etc are American English.

    Simple ;)
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not so simple. Both "burned" and "burnt" are valid US English spellings. The other two "-nt" forms are archaic in US Emglish, but not truly incorrect.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think so -- this is the normal process of irregular verbs becoming regular.
     
  18. Knight's Move
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    Knight's Move Member

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    If people from some English speaking communities feel like there is a slight difference in meaning and others don't, then the difference is either being introduced to some places, or it was once universal and is dying out or has already died out in other places. Since this form is archaic, I would guess the latter.

    Therefore, I would venture that if you don't see any difference in meaning, then it is probably in the process of dying out, or has already died out, in your community.

    Now I am by no means an expert on this, so it's very possible that I'm wrong. The more I've thought about it, however, the more I see a distinct difference in meaning between the two forms, and that has to come from somewhere.
     
  19. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or, I suspect more likely, there was never an 'official' difference between the two but simply that those who respond sensitively to words - words which sound a certain way, words which have a history, words which are commonly associated with certain ideas, not others, in spite of what the dictionary says - are alive to nuances that perhaps escape others.

    A further reason for feeling this difference: the 'nt' forms are adjectives too eg the burnt-out truck, the learnt material etc Here, clearly, what is being described is a fixed state rather than a process.

    'I happened upon a burnt-out truck on the highway.'
    'Oh, was it burning?'
    'No, you idiot.'
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's more likely that the distinction is being created, as "burnt" becomes regularised to "burned" more rapidly for some uses than others. Steven Pinker's Words and Rules is an excellent and readable account of this sort of process, including some of the (fairly) recent work on what it is in the brain that causes the process.
     
  21. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    It's Learned. :)
     
  22. ilovetowrite001
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    ilovetowrite001 New Member

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    i think both like "dreamed" and "dreamt"
     

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