“Learnt” vs. “Learned”: Learn The Difference

We use past tense verb forms like burnt and slept all the time. But what about learnt? Is it a word? Does it mean the same thing as learned? And why do some verbs form their past tense by adding a -t at the end?

In this article, you’ll get the answers to these questions and learn all you need to know about learnt and learned.

Quick summary

Both learned and learnt are correct forms of the past tense and past participle of the verb learn. Of the two, learned is far more commonly used in American English. Learnt is used in British English and some other varieties.

Is it learned or learnt?

Both learned and learnt can be used as the past tense and past participle forms of the verb learn. In both cases, they can be used interchangeably (though frequency of use varies widely depending on the variety of English).

Here’s an example of learned and learnt being used in the past tense: I learned/learnt how to ride a bike when I was seven years old. 

A past participle form of a verb can be used to form the present perfect verb tense (have learned/learnt) or the past perfect verb tense (had learned/learnt) or, sometimes, as an adjective.

Here’s an example of learned and learnt being used in present perfect form: I have learned/learnt many things from you.

And here’s an example in past participle form: I knew which berries were toxic because I had learned/learnt to identify them at camp.

learned and learnt as adjectives

When the past participle form learned is used as an adjective, it can be pronounced [ lur-nid ], as in a learned scholar, or [ lurnd ], as in learned behavior. It’s much less common for learnt to be used as an adjective, but when it is, it’s typically used in the same way as the second example above (in phrases like learnt behavior, for example).

Is learnt regular or irregular?

The past tense and past participle of most verbs are formed by adding -ed or -d to the end of the root form of the verb—as is done when forming learned from learn. Verbs whose past and past participles follow this general rule are called regular verbs, whereas verbs that don’t act this way are called irregular verbs.

Learn more about irregular verbs with our comprehensive guide.

Though some consider learnt to be an irregular form, adding -t to form the past tense or past participle follows the same pattern as adding -ed—without the more drastic spelling changes seen in irregular verbs, such as when catch changes to caught.

But learnt isn’t the only verb that ends this way.

Examples of -t in past tense and past participle forms

The use of -t when forming past tense or past participle is thought to be influenced in part by speech patterns (meaning that, in some cases, the dominant form likely emerges simply because it’s easier to say).

Some verbs that add a -t instead of -ed or -d add it directly to the end of the word without any other spelling change.

Examples: dream becomes dreamt; burn becomes burnt.

Sometimes, though, the spelling and vowel sound in the middle of the word can change along with the ending.

Examples: feel becomes felt; sleep becomes slept

Some verbs only use the -t form in their past and past participle forms.

Examples: creep becomes crept; sleep becomes slept; weep becomes wept; keep becomes kept

Note that some -ed forms, such as sleeped and keeped, are never used and are considered incorrect.

In other cases, both the -ed and -t forms of a verb are used.

Examples: learned and learnt; dreamed and dreamt; burned and burnt; kneeled and knelt; smelled and smelt

Sometimes, both forms are used with relatively similar frequency, as in the case of burned and burnt. In other cases, one of the two forms may be much less commonly used than the other. For example, kneeled is much less commonly used than knelt, and learnt is much less commonly used than learned (particularly in American English).

Check how much you have learned with our quiz

Now that you’ve had the chance to brush up on how and when learned and learnt are used, take our quiz on these two forms of the past tense of learn. You may surprise yourself with how much you’ve learned!

Take a moment to review the difference between and uses of "was" and "were."

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