Attain vs. Obtain: What’s The Difference?

English is like a big treasure chest full of words, and sometimes two words seem almost the same but have different meanings, like “attain” and “obtain.”

In this adventure, we’ll discover what makes these two words special and how they are different from each other.

We’ll learn about “attain” and “obtain” like we’re detectives looking for clues. It’s going to be fun finding out when to use each word as we play with language and become word wizards!

Short answer

“Attain” typically means to achieve or accomplish something through effort, like attaining a goal.
“Obtain” means to acquire or get something, like obtaining a book.
So, “attain” is more about achieving through hard work, and “obtain” is more about simply getting something.

Definition of Attain

“Attain” is like reaching a goal or getting to a place you really wanted to go.

Imagine you’re climbing a tall mountain, and when you finally get to the top, you’ve “attained” the summit.

It’s all about achieving something through hard work or effort, like when you practice really hard and finally learn how to ride a bike. That’s attaining your goal!

Definition of Obtain

“Obtain” is like getting something you want or need, almost like finding a treasure or being given a present.

Think of it as reaching out and grabbing a toy from a shelf.

You “obtain” it by taking it into your hands.

It’s not about working hard over time like “attain”…

It’s more about getting something right now, like when you go to the store and obtain a candy bar by buying it.

Comparative Analysis

When we think about “attain” and “obtain,” it’s like comparing climbing a mountain to picking a flower from a garden.

“Attain” is all about the journey and effort, like working hard to win a race.

On the other hand, “obtain” is more like reaching out and grabbing something you want, like picking up a toy from the store.

Let’s look at them side by side:

  1. “Attain”:
    • Used for big goals or achievements that take time and effort.
    • Example: Sarah worked hard all year and finally attained her goal of reading 100 books.
  2. “Obtain”:
    • Used for getting something more directly, often quickly or immediately.
    • Example: Alex went to the store and obtained the last piece of his favorite chocolate cake.

Practical Tips for Distinguishing Between “Attain” and “Obtain”: Comparison Table

MeaningAchieving or reaching something through effort and dedication.Getting or acquiring something more directly, often with ease.
TimeTakes time and effort, like a journey.Can be quick, like picking something up.
EffortInvolves hard work and often a long process.Often involves a direct action or transaction.
ExampleAttaining a black belt in karate after years of practice.Obtaining a toy from a store by buying it.
MnemonicThink of “A long Train journey” — it’s about the journey and effort.“Ob-tain” sounds like “got” -tain, which reminds you of quickly getting something.

Common Mistakes and Misuses

One common mistake is using “obtain” when talking about personal achievements or goals.

For example, saying “She obtained her dream of becoming a doctor” is incorrect because achieving a dream requires effort and time, so “attained” is the right word here.

Another error is using “attain” when you mean to simply get something.

Saying “He attained a new book from the store” sounds like he worked hard for the book, but really, he just bought it.

So, “obtained” is better.

To avoid these mix-ups, remember:

  1. Attain is for Achievements: Think of big goals and dreams, like winning a race or graduating. If it’s a big accomplishment that took time and effort, use “attain.”
  2. Obtain is for Objects (and things you get quickly): If it’s something you can buy, receive, or get without a long journey, “obtain” is your word. Like grabbing a cookie from the jar or getting a book from the library.

A fun tip: associate “Attain” with “Aspiration” (both start with ‘A’) for achievements and dreams, and “Obtain” with “Object” for getting things.

Remembering these associations can help you choose the right word every time.

Usage in Literature and Media

In literature and media, “attain” and “obtain” are used to convey different aspects of acquiring or achieving something. Here’s how they’ve been used:

  1. Attain in Literature:
    • In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” the character Jay Gatsby spends his life trying to attain a certain status and the love of Daisy. It’s not just about getting something; it’s his life’s mission, a goal fraught with emotion and effort.
    • In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, characters often strive to attain knowledge and skills. For example, “Harry Potter sought to attain mastery over the Patronus Charm” reflects a journey of learning and practice.
  2. Obtain in Literature:
    • In Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories, Holmes often obtains evidence to solve his cases. For example, “Holmes obtained a crucial piece of evidence that was hidden in the room,” which indicates he acquired something necessary for his investigation.
    • In many mystery novels, characters might “obtain a secret letter” or “obtain an artifact,” which implies these items were acquired or taken possession of, without the long, arduous journey implied by “attain.”

By examining these examples, you can see how “attain” often indicates a journey or effort over time, often linked with personal growth or significant achievements, while “obtain” is more about coming into possession of something, often with a sense of immediacy or direct action. These nuances are reflected in the way authors and scriptwriters choose one word over the other to convey the exact flavor of what they mean. adv banner