I was writing a Statement of Purpose letter and I am stuck with this dilemma. Here is what I wrote:

I pray that this letter attains your approval.

I first used "gains" but my mind instantly switched it to "attains", as the word seems more formal...and then I thought of "obtains", which only got me more confused. All I know is that these words have the same meaning of getting something but I'm still struggling with the context/condition it should be used on. Which one should I use?

  • 1
    First, replace "pray" by "hope". "gain" and "get" seem ok in this context, but formally you are rather requesting for the approval of the letter content (e.g. proposal, declaration of intent,...) than that of the letter itself.
    – Graffito
    Oct 22, 2023 at 10:09
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    “Hoping this letter wins / gets/ receives /meets with your approval”
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 22, 2023 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


Attain means achieve, accomplish. One can, for instance, attain one’s goals.

Obtain means acquire, get. One can, for instance, obtain one’s nutritional requirements by consuming a healthful diet.

Now tossing gain into the mix complicates matters. It also means acquire, and its difference from obtain is subtle. One can gain weight—become heavier—but we’d never say *He’s obtained weight. One can gain the respect of one’s colleagues—or earn it—but not *obtain their respect.

Obtain often carries more of a sense that the acquisition results from intentional effort:

After a day at the library, she has obtained answers to all her questions

And gain is often used where the results are unintended side-effects or the like.

After three semesters of damaging her roommates’ belongings without apologies, she has gained a reputation for thoughtlessness

As to your letter, depending on the context, I might suggest earns your approval. Or, if you wish to put it more modestly, merits your approval.

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    meets with your approval
    – Lambie
    Oct 22, 2023 at 20:09

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