In my very first question, Carlo made an edit stating that learnt is a rare past tense of learn. I am accustomed to using learnt for past tense and learned as an adjective (as in He is a learned scholar.) I checked into a couple of dictionaries and they say both are valid past tenses. Do I stand a risk of not being understood if I use learnt?

In a similar vein, should dreamed be used as a past tense for dream instead of dreamt? I can't think of other such conflicts, but I guess there must be more.

  • Both are fine, you will be understood both ways. Apr 3, 2013 at 21:32
  • 2
    To my ear, "learnt" is something someone less educated would say. As a side note, the adjective "learned scholar" is pronounced differently from "I learned my lesson": the adjective has a pronounced break into two syllables and pronounces the "e" in "ed" clearly, something like "lurn ed", while in the verb the "e" is swallowed and it's pronounced "learnd".
    – Wayne
    Feb 13, 2014 at 3:13
  • Not sure what's governing the choice, but I naturally use both pronunciations. I say "We learned how to ..." but "I hope you learnt a lesson"
    – TimR
    Apr 30, 2016 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


Both are valid. learned is consistently more commonly used in American English:

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In British English the difference has traditionally been much closer, with both being roughly equivalent, however since the 1940s, learned has become the dominant choice.

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  • How do you get such nice graphs? Can't you plot without restricting to "I learnt/learned it" form? I guess there could be other patterns like have learnt etc where learnt is commoner than learned in BrE.
    – Sultan
    Apr 3, 2013 at 21:56
  • 1
    @Sultan: Here you go: books.google.com/ngrams/….
    – Matt
    Apr 3, 2013 at 22:02

"Learned scholar" or, as another instance, "learned man" are of course the only possibilty, however in The Cambridge Guide of English Usage it is said that "In English worldwide, learned is the commoner form, yet there's a substantial difference between American and British."

Also, as an aside, it is worth nothing that B. A. Garner (A Dictionary of Modern American Usage) says that "To use learnt in American English is an affectation."

Instead, in reference to dreamed/dreamt The Cambridge Guide of English Usage, read that both spellings are in use, but "dreamed is far more common in the US."

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    Hmmm, so is it a BrE vs AmE thing? I come from an ex-British colony, so it tends to be closer to BrE, I guess.
    – Sultan
    Apr 3, 2013 at 21:48
  • Sultan, as an Italian I cannot precisely say, however Matt's Ngrams are more explicative on the BrE vs AmE matter.
    – user114
    Apr 3, 2013 at 21:52

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