We learn information every day. “How are your learnings going?” sounds funny, doesn’t it? It could be acceptable in a casual setting, but there are more appropriate ways to express what we learn without using slang terms such as “learnings.”
It is incorrect to say “learnings” unless you use it humorously in conversational settings. For example, “My university learnings were essential for my law degree” is a casual, humorous reference to what you learned. However, “The university teachings were essential for my law degree” is grammatically correct.
We will look at other words that express “learnings” correctly and how to use them effectively and appropriately. We will also learn what gerunds are, how to use them, and why you cannot pluralize them.
What Does “Learnings” Mean?
“Learnings” is not an accurate word, but “learning” is and refers to things learned, knowledge acquired, or lessons. It is the act or experience of one that learns. It may refer to knowledge obtained through systematic study or trial and error (source).
Though “learnings” appears in some earlier literature, Merriam-Webster does not recognize it as correct. Creative writing does not always adhere to grammatical rules as we make up many words in imaginative or fictional literature.
In the case of “learnings,” it may be acceptable in place of “lessons” in less formal situations to express sarcasm or humor. Ultimately, it is slang and, therefore, incorrect to use in a formal setting or a reputable publication.
The closest synonym to “learnings” is “teachings.” “Teachings” is acceptable in its plural form because it refers to what a teacher gives rather than what a student receives. So it does not imply the same meaning as “learning” since “learning” is something we receive.
“Knowledges” is also incorrect, but you can use the singular form because both “knowledge” and “learning” are noncount nouns. Noncount nouns do not have plural forms. Noncount means they can not be counted easily. Counting knowledge or learning is impossible, making them noncount nouns.
In “Knowledge is power,” there is no way to measure how much knowledge is power. The same is true of “learning”: “Learning is essential for growth.” The amount of learning necessary for growth is unmeasurable.
How Do You Use “Learnings”?
“Learning” is a gerund, which does not have a plural form, so “learnings” is incorrect. A gerund is a noun formed from a verb that refers to an action, process, or state. They end in “-ing” (source). Using “learnings” to express what one learns is never correct but may be accepted as slang.
When you use it as a verb, “learning” shows that one is acquiring information.
- The kids are learning about fossils as they dig in the sandbox.
You can also use it as a participle adjective describing a subject (source).
- The learning activity today is about fossils.
You can also use “learning” as a gerund.
- Learning is integral to healthy development.
As you can see, you can use “learning” in many types of speech. However, you will never use “learnings” because it is grammatically incorrect in that none of the above parts of speech may have an “-s” ending. We will go through some examples of each of these.
When Can You Use “Learnings”?
Use “learnings” as a gerund noun to express teachings or lessons in an informal setting that conveys sarcasm or humor. Otherwise, you should never say “learnings” because it is grammatically incorrect.
It is possible to use “learnings” instead of “learning” in an informal setting to sound goofy intentionally. Let’s say you love your college professor and are explaining all the cool stuff he teaches to your friends.
You may say, “The learnings from my college professor are so awesome.” This is a playful setting in which slang speech is acceptable because you are a college student using improper grammar. Otherwise, you could correctly say, “The teachings of my college professor are so awesome.”
Using “Learnings” In a Full Sentence.
We don’t use “learnings” in a full sentence outside of goofing off because it is grammatically incorrect. However, you can use “learning” as a noun subject or object anywhere in a sentence, as part of a progressive verb, or as a participle adjective before the noun it modifies.
You also do not use the proper form “learning” when no actual learning, knowledge, or intellectual gain is happening.
Here are examples of “learning” as a gerund subject and object:
- Learning is fun when the content is interesting.
- He wants to do some learning.
You can also use “learning” as a participle adjective:
- We will have some learning activities for the kids all summer.
- These learning tools are perfect for any classroom.
Finally, you can use “learning” as part of a progressive verb in the past, present, or future tenses:
- Present Progressive: He is learning all kinds of facts in school.
- Past Progressive: They were learning about pottery last week.
- Future Progressive: She will be learning about world politics in her class.
When Not To Use “Learnings”
Due to its super informal nature, you would never use “learnings” to speak to a professional or in any professional setting, publication, or academic paper. Generally speaking, you should never use “learnings.”
One should avoid using “learnings” in all contexts except when intentionally using a word that doesn’t exist to set up an oxymoron for humor.
As for “learning,” you should not use it when no actual learning, knowledge, or intellectual gain is happening. If you are not gaining information or refining your knowledge, then you are not “learning.” If an activity does not teach anything or train any skills, then it is not a “learning activity.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Learnings”?
Since “learnings” is grammatically incorrect, you need to use a substitute to capture what one learns.
Though not all of the following are direct synonyms, you may use them in certain contexts or from specific perspectives.
|lessons||The lessons I am learning in school are boring.|
|studies||My studies in Latin American history are interesting.|
|learning||They were people of good education and considerable learning.|
|teachings||Dr. Berkeley’s teachings on cross-pollination are unusual.|
Why It Is Not Preferred
Sentences that express what one learns are more concise when using a synonym of “learnings” because the synonyms are grammatically correct and flow better in English. This is why it is important to replace “learnings” with a different noun, such as “lessons.”
“College lessons are more difficult than high school” sounds much better than “College learnings are more difficult than high school.” Likewise, “My studies will help me pass the bar exam” is correct, while “My learnings will help me pass the bar exam” is not.
Most nouns have a plural form. This is achieved by adding “-s” or “-es” to the noun if it is countable. The ones that do not have a plural form are called noncount nouns.
A count noun is a noun that forms a plural. For example, you can use it with a numeral, words like “many” or “few,” or with indefinite articles “a” or “an” (source).
For example, “There are a few cookies left in the jar.” Here, “cookies” is a count noun because it is possible to see how many are left. If there is only one cookie, you will say, “There is a cookie left in the jar.”
An uncountable noun does not have a finite number, so you cannot count it. An example is, “There is so much pleasure in walking around nature.” We use “pleasure” here as an uncountable noun because there is no way to measure it.
“Knowledge” is one of the ways we express “learnings” and also happens to be an uncountable noun. We cannot count “knowledge.”
We form gerunds from verbs by ending the verb with “-ing” and using them as nouns. Gerunds do not have a plural form, so they are noncount nouns (source).
- I go jogging every day.
- Jogging is a relaxing exercise.
- I enjoy jogging.
It is incorrect to say, “I go joggings every day” or “I love joggings.” Another example is, “Swimming is a sport that requires a lot of practice.” Here, we use “swimming” as a gerund to describe the sport. In no circumstance will a gerund ever take an “-s” ending. It is both singular and plural.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
To read more about other examples of noun inflection that English language learners often confuse, read Is It Correct to Say “My Dears”? and Is It Correct to Say “Incidents”?
When speaking to family or friends, one may goof off and say words incorrectly. “Learnings” is one such word. The correct form is “learning,” which you may use as a gerund noun, participle adjective, or as part of a progressive verb.
If you want to sound correct in any context, do not use words like “learnings,” and do not add an “-s” or “-es” to uncountable nouns, gerunds, participle adjectives, or progressive verbs. Keep learning!