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Earnt vs. Earned — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Fiza Rafique — Updated on February 24, 2024
"Earnt" is an informal, less commonly used past tense of "earn," primarily in British English, while "earned" is the widely accepted and standard past tense form in both American and British English.
Earnt vs. Earned — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Earnt and Earned


Key Differences

The verb "earn" refers to receiving something in return for labor, service, or achievement, such as earning money for work done or earning respect through honorable actions. The past tense of "earn" is most commonly "earned," which is universally recognized and used in both American and British English to denote something that was gained or received in the past.
"Earnt," on the other hand, is an irregular past tense form of "earn" that appears predominantly in informal contexts and is more prevalent in British English. While "earnt" is understood and occasionally used, it is considered non-standard and is less commonly found in formal writing or official documentation. For example, one might informally say, "He earnt a good wage last month," but in a more formal or written context, "He earned a good wage last month" would be preferable.
The preference for "earned" over "earnt" in most contexts reflects a broader tendency in English towards regular verb forms, especially in American English. However, regional dialects, personal preference, and informal speech can influence the choice of past tense forms, leading to the continued use of variants like "earnt."
Despite the differences, both "earnt" and "earned" convey the same meaning, and the choice between them often depends on the formality of the setting, the intended audience, and regional linguistic norms. In formal writing, educational settings, and international contexts, "earned" is the advisable form to use.
"Earned" is the standard and widely accepted past tense of "earn", while "earnt" persists as an informal variant, particularly within certain dialects of British English, though its usage is comparatively limited.

Comparison Chart


Standard and widely accepted form
Informal and less common variant


Predominant in both American and British English
More common in informal British English


Used in formal and informal contexts
Primarily used in informal contexts

Regional Preference

Universal usage
Primarily British English


Suitable for formal writing and speech
Less suitable for formal contexts

Compare with Definitions


Accumulated over time.
They earned a small fortune over the years.


Achieved as a reward.
She earnt a day off after completing the project.


Achieved through merit.
The student earned the highest grade in the class.


Gained as wages.
Last year, he earnt more than he expected.


Received as a result of work or effort.
She earned a promotion through hard work.


Secured through effort.
They earnt a spot in the finals through hard work.


Gained as deserved.
He earned respect for his honesty.


Deservedly received.
Through perseverance, she earnt their trust.


Acquired or won.
The team earned their victory with excellent play.


Collected over time.
Over his career, he's earnt a reputation for reliability.


(chiefly British) earn


Simple past tense and past participle of earn


Gained as a result of effort or action; - used especially of income; as, earned income. Contrasted with unearned.


Not resulting from an error by an opposing team; - used in the phrase earned runs.


Gained or acquired; especially through merit or as a result of effort or action;
A well-earned reputation for honesty
Earned income
An earned run in baseball

Common Curiosities

Is "earnt" acceptable in British formal documents?

Even in British English, "earned" is the preferred form for formal documents and official communications.

Is "earnt" grammatically incorrect?

"Earnt" is not grammatically incorrect but is considered non-standard and less formal than "earned."

Can the use of "earnt" in speech indicate a regional dialect?

Yes, using "earnt" can reflect regional dialects within the UK where this form has persisted in informal speech.

Are there other verbs with similar informal past tense forms?

Yes, English has several verbs with informal or dialect-specific past tense forms, though these are generally less common in formal usage.

Will using "earnt" be understood by American English speakers?

While it might be understood, "earnt" is less familiar to American English speakers, and "earned" is preferred.

Does "earnt" appear in English dictionaries?

"Earnt" may appear in some dictionaries, especially those focusing on British English, but it's often marked as informal or non-standard.

How should non-native speakers decide which form to use?

Non-native speakers should opt for "earned" in most contexts, especially in formal writing and speech, to ensure clarity and standard usage.

Can "earnt" be used in academic writing?

In academic writing, it is advisable to use "earned" due to its standardization and universal acceptance.

Why is "earnt" less common than "earned"?

"Earned" follows the regular pattern of forming past tense verbs in English, making it more widely adopted, especially in formal contexts.

Could "earnt" become more widely accepted in the future?

Language evolves, but for "earnt" to gain wider acceptance, it would require more prevalent use in standard contexts, which is currently not the trend.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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