English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the plural of learning? Is it learnings?

share|improve this question

Yes, the plural of learning is learnings. It appears in established expressions like new learnings (a medical term).

I don't think it's very widely used, and I think most uses I could read are just mistakes. The term is voguish, and it sounds good, but I don't see the need for it in “Key learnings from X” when you can just say “Key lessons from X”.

share|improve this answer

Actually, learnings sounds terrible to native American English speakers. I never heard of it being used at all until I worked with people from India.

Learnings, informations, and the needful were all new to me, and I'm not even sure if they are correct.

Looking up the noun in the Oxford English Dictionary and in other dictionaries, I see no text referring to learnings at all, so I'm not sure if it is the correct plural of learning. I've never heard it spoken by English speakers born in America.

Here is another discussion on it: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081013100405AAb3jdp

share|improve this answer
1  
Learning is usually uncountable in American English ... we don't pluralize it. – Peter Shor Sep 21 '11 at 18:11

If you're taking 'learning' as a gerund (the noun version of the present participle), then I don't really think that a plural of it is a coherent notion.

If you take 'learning' to be 'a thing learned or to be learned', it is a bit new to most people, and sounds like a neologism by advertisers or people who couldn't remember the word 'lesson' or 'fact'. In that case, yes, the appropriate plural would be 'learnings'.

share|improve this answer

This is an interesting case where "learning" can be either countable or uncountable depending on the context. If it is uncountable, it doesn't take a plural ending.

Let me give you a different word with a similar word: "time".

There is plenty of time to get everything done.

Here "time" is a singular, because we are talking abstractly about time in general.

I have these times available to meet with you: 9am, 10:30am and 2pm.

Here we use a plural because we are not talking about time in the broad abstract but specific individualized times.

So let's talk about learning.

There is plenty of learning to be had in his grammar class.

Here we are talking about abstract learning in general, rather than individual items of learning.

In his class I learned how to conjugate verbs and decline nouns. Each of these learnings together helped me toward mastery of the language.

This terminology while awkward to many grammarians has become a kind of jargon phrase. For example this book is called "Essential Learnings in Mathematics.". This spike can be seen in the ngram of the word's usage. Which shows it peaking in the 1960s.

However, it does have less buzzwordy usage too. There a few citations of it such as ones referenced here including this from Shakespeare:

Shakespeare Cymbeline (1623) i. i. 43 The king..Puts to him all the Learnings that his time Could make him the receiuer of.

According to wiktionary, there are older citations where "learnings" is used to mean the compliment: teaching. In times past "learn" could be used to mean "teach" as in "I learned him how to ride a bike." Sounds awful to the modern ear, but it was one of the meanings of the word in the past.

There is a lot more at that wiktionary link.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Feb 27 '13 at 13:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?