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I understand that 教わる【おそわる】 is the intransitive of 教える【おしえる】 (to teach), however I'm not sure how to use it properly outside of possibly in an adjectival context (e.g. 授業で教わったこと). In practice, what is the difference between 教わる and any of the myriad verbs for "to learn" (習う【ならう】, 学ぶ【まなぶ】, etc.)?

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Maybe a duplicate of this one? At least might be interesting to you: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/329/… –  dainichi Apr 24 '14 at 7:26
Someone should probably point out that 教わる is a transitive verb, so it can't be the intransitive equivalent of 教える. –  snailboat Jan 15 at 23:06

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think the difference is that 習う、学ぶ can be done by yourself, whereas 教わる can't be done just by yourself: you need someone (or something) else to teach you. Note that 教わる is "to be taught."

When you say


you implicitly mean that you were taught by a teacher. On the other hand, you aren't implying that you were taught by someone in


In the latter example, the class could have been a self-studying session where you teach yourself (you don't use 教わる when you teach yourself).

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So, for example, 「日本語の授業で他動詞が教わった。」 would be grammatically accurate, and to the effect of "Japanese class was about transitive verbs"? As opposed to 「日本語の授業で他動詞を教えた。」 which would be "[The professor] taught transitive verbs in Japanese class"? –  Kaji Apr 24 '14 at 19:24
Assuming you meant 他動詞を教わった, yes, both of your examples are grammatically correct and you're exactly right on your translations. However, since the subject "professor" is omitted, I would likely think it's 「(私は)日本語の授業で他動詞を教えた。」 spoken by a teacher who taught the class. –  NigoroJr Apr 25 '14 at 2:15
教わる is passive, whereas 教える is active. For your example sentence, 「日本語の授業で先生に他動詞を教わった。」 ("[I was] taught by the teacher about transitive verbs in Japanese class.") is probably what you wanted. Hope I didn't make it more confusing... –  NigoroJr Apr 25 '14 at 4:08
Since 教わる is "to be taught," が would be used with the person being taught e.g. 「私が教わる」 ("I was taught"). 教える is "to teach" so が is used with the person doing the teaching e.g. 「先生が(私に)教える」 is "The professor teaches (me)." –  NigoroJr Apr 25 '14 at 4:12
"習う、学ぶ can be done by yourself" >> 学ぶ, 勉強する can be used for learning on your own but when you say ~~を習っています then it means you're taking lessons or learning from someone. –  Choko Apr 25 '14 at 6:09

教わる and 習う are almost interchangeable when you say:

田中先生に習っています。田中先生に教わっています。I'm learning from Tanaka sensei. / I'm in Tanaka sensei's class.

小学校の時、田中先生に習いました。田中先生に教わりました。I learned from Tanaka sensei / I was in Tanaka sensei's class when I was in elementary school.

ピアノを習っています。ピアノを教わっています。I'm taking piano lessons.

I think 教わる is more used by older people. Your ma or grandma might ask 今日は何を教わったの? then you'd reply つるかめ算(を)習った。(I don't know why, maybe 教わる is politer than 習う? but you'd say 教えていただいた/教えていただきました, which is the humble form of 教えてもらった/教えてもらいました, to sound respectful to the teacher.)

今日、授業で教わったこと, 授業で習ったこと, 授業で学んだこと sound almost the same to me, in meaning. 学んだこと sounds more formal and can also mean "something I became aware of / realized from today's lesson (something more, something deeper than what you were taught)". 習った/教わった sound more passive and 学んだ sounds more active to me.

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Thanks for the examples! I've always understood it when I've heard it come up, but not quite known how to use it, if you know what I mean. This does a lot to help. –  Kaji Apr 25 '14 at 7:31

As a more general note, you can also use 教わる in a faux-passive kind of way like you would use 教えられる, like その人に日本語を教わった。

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