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  • Post last modified:July 23, 2020
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What Differentiates Attain From Obtain?

Attain means and implies to achieve, to accomplish, or to reach the age of.
Obtain means and implies to get.

There is sometimes widespread flop between these verbs, especially when you obtain something that is almost connected to something that is often attained. For example, success is something to be attained, while a disappointment can only be obtained.

Attain and obtain have the same suffix (ain), and they both demonstrate getting or achieving something. However, these two words have more specific definitions, very different, and are used to give a sign of a change in meaning.

The verb attain means to achieve, accomplish, to reach the age of, or succeed in reaching a goal (usually through struggles)
The verb obtain means to get, to acquire. As an intransitive or (indirect) verb, obtain means to be prevalent or established.


“As you begin your struggles toward success, you should also be aware of failure and somethings that are beyond your control, things you cannot attain.”

“One of the most important things you can support others with is to help them obtain their potential.”

When To Use Attain or Obtain

Attain is often used by people to address academic or professional goals. It is a verb that means achieving a goal. Attain is a verb that means to reach something.

For Example:

  • When Ken strived towards helping others for many years, he attained his goals by being able to help 50 thousand people.
  • To attain such a high level of knowledge requires hours of practice each day.

Obtain is a verb that means to get, or to gain possession of something.

For example:

  • If you continue doubting, you may end up not obtaining anything.
  • The woman obtained the machine she needed to sew the cloth.

There is a main difference between the meanings of attain and obtain. Attain implies achieving an objective through effort, struggle or hard work whereas obtain clearly means to acquire. Although a person can obtain something with effort, striving and struggles but it isn’t represented by the word obtain.

Recommended Article: Understanding The Spelling Variations: Practice and Practise

Remembering When To Use Attain and Obtain

When you know the main difference between attain and obtain, it is possible to use both spellings to differentiate the two words from one another.

Look at the word achievement or accomplishment, they both start with the letter “a”. Attain also starts just like these two words. This is valuable because people use attain with the sense of having achieved or accomplished something.

If you also look at obtain, it starts with the letters ob, which is effective because people usually obtain an object. Apparently, object also begins with the letters ob.

When in question, remember that attain means to achieve, to accomplish. Obtain means to get! Which one are you going to use next?

Attain vs. Obtain (Quiz)

Instructions: Fill in the space with the valid and correct word, either obtain or attain in the correct form and conjugation.

  • The girl struggled in college even after being bullied. Yet, all the hardships were to ___ her degree.
  • Evidently, he didn’t study English. Nevertheless, he ______ bulk of the knowledge an ordinary English student wouldn’t have acquired.
  • Effortlessly, she ___ an accolade after toiling as difficult as she could.


Using attain or obtain? They both involve getting something, but there is a serious discrepancy between them.

Attain means getting something through struggle, efforts and hardships. It is a verb!

Obtain means acquiring something, with or without endeavor, or getting something.

Both words are everywhere and popular when communicating educational or professional goals. Making sure to comprehend what you are implying when you choose one word over another is unavoidably important.

Answers (Quiz)

  • attain (obtain also fits in, but attain suits best because the emphasis was laid on struggles)
  • obtain
  • obtain
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Yusuf Saheed

Yusuf Saheed is a writer, blogger, and entrepreneur. He’s the founder of Exceptionalways, a resource that provides smart strategies for writers, poets, motivators, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and people who are ready to unlock their potential.

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