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I want to express the achievement of a goal such as "Buying a car", or "Learning a Skill". Can I say:

"I obtained a new car."
or
"I obtained piano playing skill."

Is there a word better than obtained for expressing this, one that works both for acquiring a skill and acquiring property (the car)?

I'm looking for a word that combines both concepts, is commonly used, and is clearly understandable for both types of acquisitions.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The verb acquire works reasonably well, because it has a sense “To get” that works well for getting a car, as well as a sense “To gain, usually by one's own exertions; to get as one's own...” that works in both cases and particularly in the second, gaining a skill.

Among the set of near-synonyms acquire, attain, earn, gain, obtain, procure, secure, win, the first probably is most suited to serve both purposes.

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great answer jwpat7. I appreciate it :) Thanks guys –  alex May 17 '13 at 14:45
    
@jwpat7 For a new car, I'd normally say bought unless I acquired it by other means (e.g. as a gift). –  TrevorD May 17 '13 at 15:26

I would say that obtained is not the word you're looking for. It's so vague, so three-day-old-beer flat, so general, that it says little.

Rather, I'd say:

I bought a new car.
I got a new car for my birthday.
I won a new car in a lottery.

Use a vivid verb instead of something olive drab and camouflaged. However, I obtained a new car is grammatical, understandable, and boring. But it does invite questions: "How?", "Where ?", "When?", "From whom?"

The second case is just plain wrong. You can acquire a skill or a language, for example, but you can't obtain one. Those things aren't like advanced degrees -- it used to be that you had to earn a PhD, an Ma/MS, BA/BS, but now you can obtain them from dealers who print them and sell them to anyone willing to buy one.

I'd say:

I learned how to play the piano.

Saying "I obtained piano playing skill." is like talking with wads of cotton stuffed in your nostrils. It can be done, but it makes the folks you're talking to feel strange and makes you sound even stranger.

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