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Ask a Teacher: Study or Learn?


Ask a Teacher
Ask a Teacher: Study or Learn?
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English language learners use the verbs “study” and “learn” all the time. Yet, they often are unsure which to choose in a situation. Our subject today comes from Salah of Yemen. The writer asks:

Question:

I would like to know the difference between “study” and “learn.” Thanks! – Salah, Yemen

Answer:

Hello, Salah, and thanks for your note!

Let’s begin with the dictionary meaning of each word. These are from the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary:

To study means to read, memorize facts or attend school in order to learn about a subject.

To learn means to gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught or experiencing something.

So, studying is just one way of learning. But, it is not the only way.

Learn

Sometimes, we learn through experience. For example, if you travel to Thailand, you can visit a lot of sights, try the traditional foods and talk to the local people. By the time you leave, you will have gained a lot of knowledge about the country. So, you can say, "I learned so much about Thailand!"

You could not say, “I studied so much about Thailand!” because your actions did not mainly involve reading, memorizing facts, taking a course, attending school or something similar.

Study

In addition, when you study something, you have not learned it yet.

And, sometimes, you can even study something without learning it. For example, if you say, “I studied English,” it may mean you took English classes. Or maybe you tried to teach yourself through an app or language website.

But maybe you had difficulty with this and still do not know how to speak the language. In that situation, you could not say, “I learned English,” because that would mean you had gained enough knowledge to use it.

Examples

If the difference between “learn” and “study” is not clear yet, here are a few sentences that compare them:

He learned so much about Thailand on his trip.
He studied Thai history and culture in college.

They learned how to write stories in the new writing class.
They spent time studying the techniques of story-writing.

Where did you learn how to bake so well?
Did you study baking in school?

And one last tip for remembering the difference is this expression:

“I studied but I did not learn anything.”

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Do you have a question for Ask a Teacher? Write to us in the Comments area and be sure to list your country.

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Words in This Story

dictionaryn. a book that contains words listed in alphabetical order and gives information about their meanings, forms and pronunciations

sightn. a famous or interesting place in an area

appn. a computer program that performs a special function

bakev. to make food, such as bread and cake, by preparing a dough or batter and cooking it in an oven using dry heat

tipn. a piece of advice or useful information

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