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, 2011 at 6:29
  • 2
    @Gerard 覚える is simply "to remember/memorize". Learning is more than memorizing ;)
    – Lukman
    Jul 5, 2011 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, 2011 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, 2011 at 8:02
  • 2
    related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18645/…
    – Malper
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:05

2 Answers 2



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, 2011 at 15:58
  • 1
    @phirru: You're taught how to fly by a school teacher ;)
    – repecmps
    Jul 4, 2011 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, 2011 at 9:45
  • @Chocolate Why is there に in "先生は私にもっと勉強するようと言った"?
    – starckman
    Sep 23 at 5:05
  • @starckman The と is quotative, and 「~するように」 is imperative. Would this post help? (「~~するよう言った」「~~するように言った」「~~するようにと言った」"ordered to do~~" all sound okay, but 「~~するようと言った」 sounds wrong. I can't explain why 「~~するようと言った」(先生は私にもっと勉強するようと言った) sounds wrong, so maybe you can post it as a new question?) -- P.S. Why ask me? This is not my post.
    – Chocolate
    Sep 23 at 5:25

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, 2011 at 2:14

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