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Please suppose an employee has proved himself as a very valuable and hardworking talent in a particular field such as computer networking within his 5-year presence at a company. Because of some reasons, he decides to quit the team.

When it comes to say goodbye, the boss calls him and says:

  • You have ............ a lot of positive things by associating with the team and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company. I wish you every success in your future career.

I would appreciate it if you could let me know whether all the following choices work naturally in the sentence bellow or not. If not, which one and why:

a) attained

b) achieved

c) obtained

d) acquired

e) gained

According to the dictionary definitions, they all should work properly, but another question is that supposing that all of them work in this particular case, whether each one of them cause any difference in the general meaning of the sentence or not.

Bringing up this question, I was going to discover the semantic nuances between the listed words above.

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Before we start:

As a professional sentence, there are three other nuances in the sentence that do not read well.

  • "A lot" - Generally considered informal

  • "Things" - Is very vague and indicates a lack of reflection on the part of the writer.

  • "And" - begins a subordinate clause and therefore should be preceded by a comma.

Depending how you handle the first two issues, the choice of word to fill in the blank may differ.

My list:

"Attain" connotes progress against something qualitative, such as degree of recognition:

You have attained a high level of recognition by associating with the team, and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company.

"Achieve" connotes progress against a something quantitative, such as obtaining a degree or completing a project:

You have achieved the highest level of certification by associating with the team, and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company.

"Obtain" connotes the acquisition, ownership, or possession of something as the result of a targeted effort:

You have obtained a flawless reputation by associating with the team, and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company.

"Acquired" is similar to obtain, but less goal-oriented and more as an incidental effect:

You have acquired a great deal of experience by associating with the team, and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company.

"Gained" is similar to obtained but connotes upward progress along a continuum.

You have gained a deeper level of knowledge by associating with the team, and now you can work independently and even incorporate your own company.

  • Thank you @John Wu. But as for experience and knowledge degree and according to the dictionary definitions and of course your explanations, I guess all these words would work properly. I'm still too confused about the subtle nuance between these words. :( – A-friend Mar 16 '17 at 12:15
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attain X = Work to get or reach X. X is usually a goal or milestone.

achieve X = Work to become X. X is usually a status or something having to do with recognition.

obtain X = get X.

acquire X = get an X that was not had before or was needed.

gain X = get an additional X or add X to something we have.

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