attain or attain to


Senior Member
What is the difference between the two?

a) attain perfection (It's impossible to attain perfection.)
b) attain to perfection (It's impossible to attain to perfection.)

Are they interchangeable? Thanks in advance.
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    "To perfection" is often used in a sense of "perfectly." "The steak was grilled to perfection." "It's impossible to attain to perfection" looks incomplete. It is the equivalent, to me, of "It's impossible to attain perfectly." My mind immediately jumps to "Attain what?"


    Senior Member
    Native speaker of pukka UK English
    Allow me to disagree with the two preceding responses. To my ear both "attain perfection" and "attain to perfection" are quite natural and correct. And my trusty 1964 Concise Oxford dictionary confirms this. I suggest that the intransitive variant "attain to" is perhaps more literary and the transitive form "attain" more everyday.


    Senior Member
    Hello again!:)

    Can one write 'attain to' instead of attain? Is there a difference? Most civilizations attained to the glory of power before being destroyed. Or something like that. Can someone give an example where it is appropriate?



    Senior Member
    The Oxford English Dictionary lists to attain to X in the meaning of to reach X as archaic. The last example that it cites is from the late 19th century:

    1876 GREEN Short Hist. ii. §6 (1882) 90 Few boroughs had as yet attained to power such as this.

    I would not use it unless I were trying to imitate archaic style for some reason, probably as a joke. As the previous thread indicates, many people would not immediately understand it. If they heard it from a non-native speaker, they would most likely assume it was a mistake.