Main Difference – Obtain vs Attain
Obtain and attain are two verbs that are commonly confused by some English learners. Therefore, this article will explain the difference between obtain and attain, in terms of their meanings and usage. The main difference between obtain and attain is their meaning; obtain means to get or acquire something whereas attain means to achieve or accomplish something. The meanings of these two verbs may look similar, but you’ll understand their difference when you look at the difference in their usage.
Obtain – Definition, Meaning and Usage
Obtain means to get, acquire or gain possession of something. The Oxford dictionary defines obtain as “ Get, acquire, or secure (something)” and Merriam-Webster dictionary defines obtain as “to gain or get (something) usually by effort”. Both these definitions imply that obtaining something involves a certain effort. Look at the following examples to get a clearer idea about the meaning and usage of this verb.
The thieves managed to obtain a duplicate key to the locker.
I obtained the original publication of the work.
The lab assistant obtained blood samples from four patients.
She started an idle conversation with the man, hoping to obtain information about the crime.
Obtain is mostly used with tangible entities (book, key, blood sample); even if they are not tangible, they are not entirely abstract. (i.e. information)
Attain – Definition, Meaning and Usage
Attain means to achieve, accomplish or reach. The Oxford dictionary defines attain as “Succeed in achieving (something that one has worked for)” and Merriam-Webster dictionary defines obtain as “To succeed in a directed effort, process, or progression”. Although both obtain and attain imply a certain effort, the effort involved in attaining something is generally greater than the effort involved in obtaining something.
In addition, the verb attain is generally used with abstract concepts or non-tangible entities such as goals, dreams, objectives, etc. Attain can be also used to indicate that someone has reached a specific age, size, amount or rank.
It took him 10 years to attain his ultimate goal.
Mrs. Darcy attained the age of 100 years on 14th April 2016.
After so much hard work, he attained the post of vice president.
He attained his objective by working hard.
Difference Between Obtain and Attain
Obtain means to get, acquire or gain possession of something.
Attain means to achieve, accomplish or reach.
Obtain involves some effort.
Attain involves greater effort than obtain.
Obtain is generally used with tangible entities.
Attain is generally used with non-tangible entities.