Both children in school and adults in the workforce receive regular exposure to the concept of “achievement.” Of course, we commonly hear about the achievements of others, and we strive to achieve our own unique goals, but is it grammatically correct to say, “achievement”?
To use the word “achievement” correctly, we must understand that it is a noun and must function accordingly. Comparatively, “achieve” is the verb form of the word and serves a different function. Therefore, you are using “achievement” correctly when you apply it as a noun and abide by the syntactic rules pertaining to nouns.
This article will discuss the proper usage of the word “achievement,” provide various options for using the word, and offer some alternative phrases that maintain a similar meaning.
What Does “Achievement” Mean?
The word “achievement” is a noun that refers to the completion of an important task or goal. The first use of “achievement” was in 15th-century France, and it derives from the Old French word “achever,” which meant to complete or finish something (source).
“Achievement” typically refers to a significant accomplishment. For example, if someone earns their college degree or receives a promotion at work, we would say that those are great achievements. Achievements entail long-term work that is challenging.
A synonym of “achievement” is “accomplishment,” another way to describe a great success. Overall, “achievement” has a strong positive connotation, and we use it when someone has accomplished something important to them.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Achievement”?
There are numerous circumstances where it is grammatically correct to say “achievement.” To check your usage of this word, make sure that you are using “achievement” as a noun in the sentence.
“Achievement” is the noun form of the word, and “achieve” is the verb form of the word. These two words have vastly different functions in a sentence and are not interchangeable. Let’s look at an example of how these two words operate within a sentence.
Correct example: Brett’s greatest achievement was winning a marathon.
Incorrect Example: Brett’s greatest achieve was winning a marathon.
In the correct example, “achievement” properly functions as a noun. We know whose achievement they are discussing (Brett’s), and we have information about what that achievement was — winning a marathon. The sentence is clear and logical.
In the incorrect example, the verb “achieve” attempts to operate as a noun, which it cannot successfully do. Verbs indicate an action that someone can take, like “achieve”; therefore, using “achievement” as a verb would never make sense.
Using “achievement” as a noun within a sentence is grammatically correct. When discussing achievements, you can also provide further clarity by specifying whose achievements you are referring to and what those achievements are.
In What Context Can You Use “Achievement”?
The most common contexts to use the noun “achievement” are school contexts, career contexts, or personal growth contexts. When we talk about achievements, we imply that someone completed a challenging task that took a fair amount of time.
For example, earning a 4.0 in school is an excellent example of achievement in the school context. Likewise, promotions or bonuses are relevant examples of career-related achievements.
A person might also have career-related goals, such as reaching $1,000,000 in sales revenue. Once they’ve accomplished their career goal, this person can say that attaining the goal is one of their achievements.
Lastly, we can use “achievement” to refer to personal goals. These are more subjective than the school or career-related contexts for achievement. For example, one person might consider losing 20 pounds an important achievement, while another might not care that much about that goal.
When discussing achievements, we must remember that everyone has unique circumstances and goals. In any context, an achievement is an important accomplishment for the person who completed the goal or task.
When Can You Use “Achievement”?
Grammatically, you can correctly use the word “achievement” in a handful of circumstances. We commonly use it as the subject and the direct object of a sentence. On the other hand, remember that “achievement” cannot ever function as the verb of a sentence.
Let’s look over a few examples of using “achievement” correctly.
|As the subject||Abraham Lincoln’s most impressive achievement was abolishing slavery.|
|As the subject||The achievements of Elon Musk will be studied for years.|
|As the direct object||Anne felt a strong sense of achievement as she collected her diploma.|
|As the direct object||Matthew reached an important achievement today.|
When we include “achievement” in the subject, we indicate to our audience that we will be commenting on the aforementioned achievement. When we use “achievement” as the direct object, we must ensure a clear subject and a preceding verb.
In the direct object examples above, “Anne” and “Matthew” are the subjects, and “felt” and “reached” are the verbs. Notice how the word “achievement” usually has a descriptor with it. It is routine to say things like “my greatest achievement” or “an important achievement.”
How Do You Use “Achievement”?
If you are trying to use “achievement” in a sentence, there are a few things that you must consider. First, think about whether you are discussing a specific achievement or achievements in general.
This will help you decide how much additional information you need for the sentence to be clear. For example, if you are discussing a specific achievement, you should include whose achievement it was and what it was.
- Meredith just won the school spelling bee. What an awesome achievement!
In this example, we know whose achievement the speaker is discussing (Meredith’s), and we know what the achievement was — winning the spelling bee. We also see how the speaker feels about it — the speaker is impressed with the achievement.
If you are discussing achievements in a more general sense, you need to consider what essential information you are trying to convey. Are you asking a question about achievements? Are you declaring a lack of achievement?
- You call that an achievement?
Here, the speaker indicates that what the other person achieved is not very impressive. In this example sentence, the speaker implies the actual achievement instead of directly stating it, but the sentence still makes sense.
They would have specified the specific achievement a few sentences earlier in a real conversation.
What Verb Do You Use With “Achievement”?
Sometimes, we find that the word “achievement” functions in such a way that it follows a verb. In these cases, verbs such as “reached,” “obtained,” and “earned” are most common.
Here are some examples of what this looks like in a sentence:
- Jerry reached an amazing achievement.
- Sue obtained an important achievement.
- Tom earned his achievement through hard work.
There are only a few verbs that writers typically use before “achievement.” This is because, in a lot of cases, the sentence would be more direct and clear if they restructured it to use “achieve” as the verb. Let’s revise example 3 from above to change the verb to achieve:
- Tom achieved a medal because of his hard work.
What Tense Is “Achievement”?
When we are discussing achievements, what tense should we use? We typically use the simple past, simple present, present progressive, or simple future tense in conjunction with “achievement.” The tense will depend on the subject and the timing of the achievement.
If the subject of the sentence is no longer alive, then you should always use past tense.
- Queen Victoria’s most important achievement was becoming the Empress of India.
If the subject of the achievement is currently alive, you could potentially use either present or past tense. In these cases, we can choose the tense based on the timeline of the achievement.
If the attainment of the achievement is still ongoing, you can use present tense or future tense. However, past tense would be the most appropriate if the achievement happened long ago.
- Completing this book will be my greatest achievement.
- My family is my greatest achievement.
- My grandmother’s most important achievement was her marriage to my grandfather.
If you decide to use the verb “achieve” instead of the noun “achievement,” you can conjugate “achieve” to be past tense, present tense, or future tense.
Using Achievement in a Full Sentence
We can successfully use the word “achievement” in a full sentence in many different ways. Here are some more examples of what this could look like:
|Example 1||The achievements of the Founding Fathers are well recognized.|
|Example 2||Their greatest achievement is their family business.|
|Example 3||Jacob’s grandmother was very proud of his achievement.|
|Example 4||Some say the development of the internet is humanity’s greatest achievement.|
We can use “achievement” with different tenses and in different parts of the sentence. It can work with a descriptor, such as “greatest,” as we’ve shown in examples 2 and 4, or it can function without a descriptor, as we’ve shown in examples 1 and 3.
When Not to Use Achievement?
If you use the word “achievement” a lot, you will want to change up some of your sentences to avoid repetition and excessive passive voice. This is especially true if you are using the word in formal writing.
We also want to avoid using the word “achievement” when we are referring to small, unimportant tasks. For example, getting to work on time is not an achievement since that is a basic expectation. Instead, we should use “achievement” to discuss a great accomplishment.
What Can You Use Instead of Achievement?
If you are looking for alternative ways to discuss significant accomplishments, there are a handful of synonyms that you can use in place of “achievement.”
Instead of saying something like “what a great achievement,” you can easily use the words “accomplishment,” “success,” or “attainment.” Let’s look at a few examples of these alternative phrases.
- What an incredible accomplishment!
- Her business has been very successful this year.
- Jackson is focused on the attainment of his ultimate goal.
- I found great success with digital marketing.
All of these examples discuss the achievements of the subject while using the words “accomplishment,” “successful,” “attainment,” and “success” instead of “achievement.” In each example, the subject either has already achieved something or is actively working towards achievement.
Distinguishing Parts of Speech
In English, certain words form through the process of nominalization. This is true of the word “achievement.” Nominalization entails taking an adjective or a verb and adding a particular suffix to the word to change it into a noun (source).
Writers and lexicographers created the word “achievement” by adding the suffix -ment to the verb “achieve.” To better understand this process, let’s briefly review the key differences between nouns and verbs.
Noun vs. Verb
Grammarians traditionally define nouns as a person, place, or idea. A noun is a single word, but we can also have a noun phrase, which is a group of words that function as a noun in the sentence.
On the other hand, grammarians and lexicographers define verbs as depicting action or a state of being. In a sentence, a verb will function to describe what the subject of the sentence is doing or what state of being they are in.
A verb is a single word, but we can also have a verb phrase, a group of words that function together as the sentence’s verb.
Both nouns and verbs have common suffixes that can serve as clues about how the words function in the sentence.
In English, we place many different noun suffixes at the end of words to nominalize them. The chart below illustrates 10 examples of common noun suffixes. For each noun suffix, the chart shows the verb or adjective form of the word and the nominalized form of the word.
|Suffix||Verb or Adjective||Noun|
These are just some of the most common noun suffixes in English. You can strengthen your command of the English language by familiarizing yourself with the varying suffixes and how they alter the meaning of certain words. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
To learn more about the varying noun suffixes, you can check out this article: “Requestor or Requester: What to Call Someone Making a Request.”
The word “achievement” has a strong positive connotation, and we use this word to discuss the accomplishments of others and of ourselves. We can be grammatically correct when using “achievement” by ensuring that the word functions as a noun within a sentence.
Alternatively, you can use the verb form of the word, “achieve,” or other synonyms such as accomplishment, attainment, or success to describe achievements!