I've read the thread on 學 vs. 學習, and I have a slightly related question. In English, the words "learn" and "study" are somewhat interchangeable, but also fairly distinct, in that there is a distinction between the meaning of the words learn and study, with the implication that one studies something in order to learn it, and that one who has learned something has in a way completed studying it. I'm am guessing the same distinction can be made in Chinese, and I'm wondering how that is done.

Thanks in advance! 唐納文在紐約市上

  • 2
    question answered by any number of dictionaries, look up "learn" and "study" as well as 学 some suggestions: learn:学会; 习得; 得知,认识到 study:详细地检查,为…费心思 it also appears that as a verb 学 is rarely used without a complement(of result),e。g。 到 (会 corresponding to "learn"),or without an aspect particle(了,过,着)
    – user6065
    Mar 15, 2015 at 17:34
  • OK, thanks. Got it. I appreciate the human guidance over dictionaries sometimes as oftentimes I've found they throw in all possible definitions of a word.
    – Tang Nawen
    Mar 15, 2015 at 21:04
  • Example: "Learn from what you've studied ; Study what you've learnt" From this sentence there are still differences between learn and study, but if you are going to translate it into Chinese, this wont be easy anymore.
    – Raynoceros
    Mar 16, 2015 at 1:14
  • 1
    This is not an answer to your question, but I'd like to point out the way you sign your post "唐納文在紐約市上". It seems like you're translating word-for-word from English "from 唐納文 in NYC", and it sounds unnatural to a native ear. The natural way to say/write this is "紐約市唐納文上".
    – monalisa
    Mar 16, 2015 at 4:51
  • 1
    上課 is a clear way to convey studying without necessarily learning.
    – neubau
    Mar 16, 2015 at 5:17

3 Answers 3


I read the post on 學 vs. 學習, and I think one of the answers that was downvoted actually gave a pretty good speculation that agrees with my thinking and also one of the answers provided already.

In summary, I think learning/學 is a more inclusive term (as is often the case in Chinese when there is less characters) that does have a passive quality about it, although you still have to make a conscious effort if you want to learn something. Therefore I am inclined to say that learning is the generic term you use for acquiring knowledge or information.

Study/學習 is a more specific term that describes how this knowledge or information is acquired. The character 習 indicates practice or repetition that can become a habit or ritual if you want to interpret the meaning literally. However, you can also look at it as acquiring knowledge through a more structured or formalized way.

So you can say that I am learning Chinese without implying how you are acquiring knowledge about the Chinese language, whereas if you say that you are studying Chinese, it means that you are going through a specific process or method to acquire the knowledge. Of course, you can say that you are learning Chinese in many different ways (studying at a class being one of them), but if you say that you are studying Chinese in many different ways then you are probably taking classes, doing language exchange, doing research, etc.

Another way to look at it is that you can learn a lot of Chinese by being in China as a result of being immersed in the right environment, whereas it means something different when you say that you can study a lot of Chinese by being in China (unless you are referring to the fact that there are many schools or classes you can enrol in).


'learn' comes from an old meaning of 'follow a track, find a track' from a word related to German 'Gleis' = (train) track. 'learn = get knowledge, study'

Latin 'studium' study, application, originally comes from studere meaning 'be diligent'. From 1300 it has the meaning 'apply oneself to the acquisition of learning'

How much difference can there be between 'learn' and 'study'? They may appear in different phrases, but I can't see any fundamental distinction.

  • for 1st 2 paragraphs see etymologyonline
    – user6065
    Mar 16, 2015 at 5:28
  • Reechen, du hast eine pathologische Neigung dazu, Leute zum Gebrauch eines Lexikons zu zwingen. Wirst nie davon müde?
    – Pedroski
    Mar 16, 2015 at 6:48
  • are users supposed to be able to read what appears to be German? User simply notes that the first 2 paragraphs are identical with part of the entries in etymologyonline for "learn" and "study".
    – user6065
    Mar 16, 2015 at 7:08
  • 有网民认为用乎能看得懂。任何词源词典有一样的,只是有用户们不要听从尊重的用户,不要阅读。 怎么办哦?
    – Pedroski
    Mar 16, 2015 at 9:17

I do think they have different connotations:

學 has a more passive tone (you could even 'accidentally' learn something)

學習 implies an active effort


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