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I elsewhere saw the difference between the two explained thusly: accomplished denoted "completed for someone else's benefit", achieved "completed by oneself". I consider it a one off, but can anyone confirm if there is an implicit superiority in language usage. This would be useful in the positive sense one would say "... an accomplished career".

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4 Answers 4

I think you are right to be wondering if there is a difference, since in my experience (UK English, mostly academic) the two stem-words seem to be used interchangeably to mean much the same thing. If there is a shade of difference in meaning or usage, I guess that accomplish(ed) refers more to polish and style, and achieve(ment) more to overcoming difficulty. Otherwise they both mean to get something done - and finished. I wonder if the poser of the question would like to say whether it is UK- or US- or other English usage that is of greatest interest?

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I would say that one would accomplish a task and achieve a goal or target. There is considerable overlap between the two.

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Yes, there's "considerable overlap". But arguably in practice the tasks you accomplish may tend to have been set by others, whereas the goals you achieve might be more likely to have been personal targets. Which might explain where OP's cited source got the idea linking the two verbs themselves to either one's, own or someone else's, benefit. –  FumbleFingers Nov 8 '12 at 21:59

Accomplishment is getting things done, while achievement is getting things done right.

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Achievement is most commonly associated with a letter grade, percentile, standardized mean, or other metric. A relentless pursuit of an A grade often obscures, if not obstructs, the learning process. The grade as instructional product - rather than learning as educational process - distorts achievement. Positive psychology suggests that there is a distinction between achievement that is focused on quantitative scores and accomplishment that is focused on qualitative results.

Achievement typically measures an externally imposed standard. Accomplishment typically describes an internally motivated goal.

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