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  1. #1
    Ian Wheeler is offline Newbie
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    Default Bring back the true Past Participle!

    I was dismayed to read a (closed) thread in which a number of members agreed that the words "learnt" and "learned" were interchangeable, having identical meaning. This is simply not so.
    To avoid any possibility of confusion, we are discussing the verb "to learn".
    "Learnt" is the past participle. It is used in the Perfect tense e.g. 'John has learnt something new today" or the Pluperfect tense, e.g. 'John had learnt something new today'.
    "Learned" is in the Imperfect tense, e.g. 'John learned something new today'. Its use as the past participle is incorrect.

    The meanings are all subtly different.

    I'd like readers to take this posting as a wail of protest at the neglect currently suffered by the genuine past participles of many verbs. God knows that English is riddled with irregularities and rules that are frequently broken; I pity anyone learning it as a second language but English as I was taught it is an immensely capable language for expressing precise moods, concepts, emotions and so forth and neglecting the rules of that language merely casts doubt on the writer's intended meaning.

    Please, let's restore the past participle to its rightful glory and, Ulli and Pauline, "Learnt" and "Learned" are most definitely not the same word spelt differently!

  2. #2
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Bring back the true Past Participle!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Wheeler View Post
    I was dismayed to read a (closed) thread in which a number of members agreed that the words "learnt" and "learned" were interchangeable, having identical meaning. This is simply not so.
    Well, actually, it is so. Some native speakers, especially of BrE, use 'learnt'. Other native speakers, especially those of AmE use 'learned'.

    To avoid any possibility of confusion, we are discussing the verb "to learn".
    Or, as some of us would put it, 'we are discussing the verb LEARN'. There is no need for a 'to'.

    "Learnt" is the past participle, except for those people for whom 'learned' is the past participle.
    It is used in the Present Perfect tense e.g. 'John has learnt something new today" or the Pluperfect tense (more commonly known as the 'past perfect'), e.g. 'John had learnt something new today'. Without further context, that is a strange use of the past perfect.

    "Learned" is in the Imperfect tense, e.g. 'John learned something new today'.That tense is generaly known as the past simple/simple past. For most grammarians, English does not have an imperfect tense. The form of the past simple is 'learnt' or 'learned'. Almost all native speakers use the same form for the past simple as they use for the past participle.
    Its use as the past participle is incorrect.
    No it isn't.


    ps. Welcome to the forum, Ian.
    Last edited by 5jj; 20-Dec-2011 at 17:44. Reason: typo
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  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Bring back the true Past Participle!

    As a matter of interest, COCA has 9,232 examples of 'Have/has/had learned', 90 of 'have/has/had learnt'. BNC has 1,091 examples of 'Have/has/had learned', 607 of 'have.has/had learnt'.

    'Learned' is more commonly used as the past participle, even in Britain.

    The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives the past participle and past simple forms as: "learned or esp Brit learnt'.
    Last edited by 5jj; 20-Dec-2011 at 21:11. Reason: typo
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  4. #4
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Bring back the true Past Participle!


  5. #5
    Ian Wheeler is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Bring back the true Past Participle!

    Well, they certainly seem to have altered the rules (and the names of the tenses) a bit since I was at school!
    I won't get into a fight over this but feel, through study of grammar in several European languages, as well as English, that I started out on firm ground.

  6. #6
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Bring back the true Past Participle!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Wheeler View Post
    Well, they certainly seem to have altered the rules (and the names of the tenses) a bit since I was at school!
    I won't get into a fight over this but feel, through study of grammar in several European languages, as well as English, that I started out on firm ground.
    Who are "they", Ian? There is no authority capable of altering or setting the rules of the English grammar and there has never been one. Certainly, school teachers, with all respect to them, do not constitute such an authority.

    Whenever it was you were at school, "learned" was a legitimate past participle at that time.

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