How are the following verbs which are related to learning different to each other?

  • 勉強する
  • 習う
  • 学ぶ
  • dont forget 覚える! Jul 5 '11 at 6:29
  • 2
    @Gerard 覚える is simply "to remember/memorize". Learning is more than memorizing ;)
    – Lukman
    Jul 5 '11 at 6:30
  • 5
    @Lukman 覚える is actually sometimes used with the meaning of learning, for instance many people say 仕事を覚える for learning a new job, even non-repetitive jobs. Jul 5 '11 at 7:09
  • You could also add 身につける to the list, for when learning by yourself, as opposed to learning from a teacher/mentor (学ぶ).
    – shang
    Jul 5 '11 at 8:02
  • 2
    related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18645/…
    – Malper
    Mar 16 '16 at 21:05


The original character is: 學

Meaning 2 hands writing characters and teaching a child

学ぶ is to imitate (or assimilate and repeat) what the teacher says. Study a subject from a teacher.

Most meaningful examples:

私たちは学ぶために学校に行く (We go to school to learn.)

私は日本語を学びはじめてから40年になる (It is forty years since I began the study of Japanese.)

英語を学び始めた (I started to learn English)


This character is composed of 羽 (wings) and 白 (clear/understand)

It shows how to learn by repeated practice like a small bird learning to fly.

Most meaningful examples:

バイクの乗り方を習う (learning to ride a bike)

車の運転を習っていない (I haven't learned to drive - I can't drive)

書道を習うのは楽しい (Learning calligraphy is fun.)


勉 = make an effort
強 = powerful

It came to be used for "to study" but outside the class. Nobody teaches you, you "force" yourself to study something, do your homework, assimilate a lesson...etc.

Most meaningful examples:

先生は私にもっと勉強するようにと言った (The teacher told me to study harder.)

これからもっと勉強します (I'll study harder in future)

Examples taken from EDICT and organized for this answer in the correct categories.

  • 2
    How about 学習する? :p
    – phirru
    Jul 4 '11 at 15:58
  • 1
    @phirru: You're taught how to fly by a school teacher ;)
    – repecmps
    Jul 4 '11 at 16:43
  • 3
    To quote my philosophy of education prof, the difference between 学and 習う can be described as the difference between "knowing that cesium is an element" and "knowing how to ride a bike" -- obtaining knowledge vs. acquiring a skill. Jul 5 '11 at 9:45

勉強する is 'study' and is usually applied to school/literature.

習う is 'learn' and is usually applied to things like learning instruments or skills.

学ぶ carries a more 'in depth' meaning to it, and is usually applied to things like a vocation or 'years of study in XYZ'.

勉強する is the most common and is fairly good at being used in place of the others.

  • 1
    I just don't thing that "勉強" applies as well as you say to other things. If you say "today, I learned a new word", you'll never say 勉強, will you? I think that 習う (and to a slightly lesser extent 学ぶ) have a broader use.
    – Axioplase
    Jul 5 '11 at 2:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.