gain, obtain or attain? Learn advanced English vocabulary. - Videos


In this English lesson you will learn the difference between the words gain, obtain and attain. This lesson will be very helpful for anyone planning to take the TOEFL, TOEIC or GRE exams or to help with writing resumes, CV’s and cover letters for applying for jobs in English speaking countries.

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*** English Lesson Notes / transcript: ***

In today’s English lesson you will learn how to use the words gain, obtain, and attain.

Let’s get started!
Hello Real Fluency Friends! I’m Trisha and I’m here to teach you Real English used in Real Life so you can reach Real Fluency! Now!

And today you will learn how to use the words gain, obtain, and attain.

attain (verb)
These three words have similar meanings.
They all mean basically to get something.
The word ‘get’ is fine for most informal speech and writing.

But in formal writing or speaking there are
subtle differences in their meaning that
you should be aware of. When listening
or reading, if you understand the basic
meaning of getting something you will be ok.

If you need to use them, it would help to understand the difference. For me, as a native speaker I really don’t have to think about it too much, one or the other just sounds right to me depending upon the context.

You use attain when talking about something
you accomplish, reach, or achieve through effort.
For example, you can attain a goal of speaking English fluently.

But obtain means more to just get or acquire
something, to take ownership of something.
There may or may not be any difficulty in
getting the thing you are talking about

‘gain’ can be used as a verb or a noun. Most
of the time you will hear it used as in gaining

Let me share some sample sentences and that may make them more clear. If not, when listening or reading pay attention to these words and the subtle differences of when they are used.

It might also be helpful to keep a list of sentences using these words that you come across and review them now and then until it starts to become more clear.

Will he attain his goal of getting people to Mars?

Because of the influence of gravity, maximum velocities are usually attained
just after launch, at entry, or at time of closest approach to a massive body.

I refuse to let anyone keep me from attaining
my goal of being successful.

The police will obtain all the legal records that they need.
He obtained his knowledge of rocket science through textbooks that he borrowed from someone.

She ate too much junk food, and gained a lot of weight.
It was hard for me to gain weight when I was younger.
He’s been gaining a lot of weight the past year or so.
Short Quiz:
Fill in the blanks for these sentences with
either gain, obtain or attain. I realize this
will be hard for many people, but try and see
how well you do with it!

I’ll make it easier – if it is about
weight, use gain. If it is about a
goal (except those involving weight) use attain.

1) He was able to _______ passports from three countries.
2) Goals take a lot of work to ______.
3) I try to eat healthy foods so that I don’t _____ too much weight.

That’s all for today’s lesson!



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