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Difference between Attain or Obtain

attain or obtain

Understanding the distinction between “attain” and “obtain” is crucial for accurate and effective communication. Both verbs involve the act of getting something, but they are used in different contexts. “Attain” typically refers to achieving something through effort or skill, often something intangible or a significant milestone. On the other hand, “obtain” is used when acquiring or gaining possession of something, usually tangible, through a process or action.

Quick Facts Table

Part of SpeechVerbVerb
DefinitionTo achieve or reach (a condition, objective, or state) through effortTo get, acquire, or secure (something)
Usage ContextAchievements, goals, levels of skill or understandingAcquiring items, information, or permissions
ExampleAttaining a high level of proficiency in a languageObtaining a copy of a rare book

Difference Between “Attain” and “Obtain”

Definition of Attain

"Attain" is used to describe the achievement of a goal, status, or level of skill that requires effort, determination, or development over time. It often implies a significant amount of work and accomplishment.

Definition of Obtain

"Obtain" refers to the act of acquiring or getting something. It can be used in various contexts, such as obtaining information, permission, or physical objects, and does not necessarily imply a long process or effort.

Origin of Attain

The term “attain” originates from the Old French “atindre,” which means to reach, achieve, or accomplish. Its use emphasizes the process of striving towards and reaching a goal.

Origin of Obtain

“Obtain” comes from the Latin “obtinere,” meaning to hold, acquire, or possess. Its roots suggest the act of coming into possession of something.


  • Attain: /əˈteɪn/
  • Obtain: /əbˈteɪn/ or /ɒbˈteɪn/

Comparing Attain and Obtain

While both verbs indicate the act of getting something, “attain” is more about reaching a level or state through effort or ability, often used for abstract achievements. “Obtain” is generally about the acquisition of something tangible or intangible without the connotation of personal growth or achievement involved in “attain.”

ContextAchievements, levels, or states achieved through effortAcquiring or securing something
ImplicationEffort, achievement, personal growthAcquisition, possession
Common UsesSkills, qualifications, standardsItems, information, permissions

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Attain in Sentences

  1. She attained her goal of becoming a doctor after years of hard work.
    • Highlights a significant achievement reached through effort.
  2. Attaining a black belt in karate requires dedication and discipline.
    • Indicates a level of skill achieved through continuous effort.
  3. He has attained a high level of mastery in chess.
    • Describes achieving an advanced level of skill.
  4. They aim to attain complete customer satisfaction.
    • Used in the context of reaching a specific objective.
  5. Attaining peace in the region has been a long-standing goal.
    • Refers to the achievement of a complex, abstract goal.

Use of Obtain in Sentences

  1. She obtained the necessary permissions to start the project.
    • Refers to acquiring something needed.
  2. You can obtain the book from the library.
    • Simple act of getting something from a place.
  3. He obtained the information through extensive research.
    • Acquiring something intangible through effort.
  4. They obtained a rare artifact for their collection.
    • Indicates coming into possession of a valuable item.
  5. Obtaining a visa for travel can be a lengthy process.
    • Describes the process of acquiring something through formal procedures.


The difference between “attain” and “obtain” lies in the nature of what is being sought and the method of acquisition. “Attain” is used for achievements or statuses reached through effort, often related to personal or professional growth, while “obtain” refers to the act of acquiring or securing something, with less emphasis on the effort towards personal achievement.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • Can “attain” and “obtain” be used interchangeably?
    • While there might be contexts where their usage seems interchangeable, especially when dealing with abstracts, it’s important to choose the word that accurately reflects the action: “attain” for achievements and “obtain” for acquisitions.
  • Is “attain” only used for positive achievements?
    • Primarily, yes. “Attain” usually refers to positive outcomes or achievements reached through effort.
  • Can “obtain” refer to acquiring knowledge?
    • Yes, “obtain” can refer to acquiring knowledge, information, or data, although “gain” or “acquire” might sometimes be more precise choices depending on the context.
  • What is the key to attaining success?
    • Success is often attained through a combination of hard work, determination, learning from failures, and adapting to changes.
  • How can I obtain a rare item?
    • Obtaining a rare item may require research, networking with collectors, attending auctions, or using specialized services.
When to Use Attain or Obtain


What is the difference between attain and obtain?

Attain is often used to mean “to achieve” or “to gain through effort,” while obtain is used as a synonym for “get” and means “to gain possession of something.”

When should I use attain or obtain?

Attain is most commonly used to mean “to achieve something” or “to gain something through strenuous effort,” while obtain is primarily used as a synonym for “get” and implies gaining possession of something.

Can attain and obtain be used interchangeably?

Attain and obtain can be used interchangeably in certain contexts, but their usage differs depending on the specific context. Obtain is more commonly used when referring to gaining possession of tangible things, while attain is used for achieving goals or reaching certain points.

What are some examples of how attain and obtain are used?

Examples include obtaining a rare book or obtaining tickets to a concert, indicating the acquisition of tangible objects. On the other hand, someone can attain their goal of earning a PhD through years of hard work or attain proficiency in a skill through practice.

How should I choose between attain and obtain in my communication?

By understanding the distinctions between attain and obtain, you can choose the appropriate verb to ensure clarity and precision in your communication. Consider whether you are referring to achieving something or gaining possession of something, and use the corresponding verb accordingly.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, writer at, blends creativity with insight, exploring technology, culture, and psychology. With a background in English Literature, she crafts engaging stories inspired by nature and urban life. Outside writing, she enjoys exploring and continuous learning.View Author posts

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