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Key Difference – Acquire vs Obtain

The two verbs acquire and obtain can be used as synonyms in certain instances. However, not all of their meanings are similar. We have to look at the different meanings of these two verbs in order to understand the difference between them. The key difference between acquire and obtain is the fact that acquire can refer to the development or learning of a new skill, habit or quality whereas obtain does not have this meaning. It is also important to note that both acquire and obtain are transitive verbs and cannot be used without an object.

What Does Acquire Mean?

The verb acquire basically has two meanings.

To gain possession of/buy an object or an asset

He managed to acquire all the documents.

His firm managed to acquire substantial property in Nice.

He went on acquiring properties around his old village.

To learn or develop a skill, habit, or quality

I’ve acquired a taste for whisky.

The course coordinator claimed that students acquired computer skills in two weeks.

Summer camps helped children to acquire social skills.

It took him ten years to acquire proficiency in math.

The noun form of this verb is acquisition. As seen from the above examples, obtain is similar to the first meaning of acquire. Obtain cannot be used to refer to the acquisition of a skill, habit or quality.

Key Difference - Acquire vs Obtain

He managed to acquire several buildings in the city.

What Does Obtain Mean?

Obtain means to get or gain something. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, obtain means “to gain or get (something) usually by effort”. Thus, obtaining something involves an effort.

It was difficult to obtain a copy of the original document.

This information can be easily obtained from the internet.

He always uses violence and threats to obtain what he wants.

It was necessary to obtain the consent of the children’s guardians.

The doctor obtained the blood samples of his patients.

Difference Between Acquire and Obtain

Finally, I obtained the permission of his guardian.

What is the difference between Acquire and Obtain?


Acquire means

  • To gain possession of/buy an object or an asset
  • To learn or develop a skill, habit, or quality

Obtain means to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort.

New Habits, Skills

Acquire can refer to the development of new skills, qualities and habits.

Obtain cannot refer to the development of new skills, qualities or habits.

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