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I would like to know the difference in usage between these two godan and intransitive verbs :

闘う{たたかう}

戦う{たたかう}

When is one chosen over the other? Is 戦う more related to the war and 闘う to the fight?

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According to The Kodansha Kanji Usage Guide dictionary:

戦う has these meanings:

  1. wage war, fight
  2. contest, contend, play a match [game]

And 闘う is:

(struggle with) fight (against), contend with, strive against

The following examples are given:

敵と戦うfight one's enemy

議論を戦わす have a discussion

正正堂堂と戦おう Let's play the game fairly

闘い struggle, conflict

困難と闘う contend with difficulties

Sanseido’s Daijirin has this notice:

「戦う」は“戦争する。勝ち負けを争う”の意。「敵国と戦う」「選挙で戦う」「優勝をかけて戦う」  「闘う」は“困難などを克服しようとする”の意。「労使が闘う」「難病と闘う」「暑さと闘う」〔ともに「格闘する・争う」意で用法も似ているが、「戦う」の方をより広義に用い、「闘う」は「格闘する」意に限定して、比較的小さな争いに用いられることが多い。また、比喩的に、見えないものとの精神的な争いにも「闘う」を用いる〕

So it seems that 戦う is more suitable in military, sports or political contexts (win or lose against an opponent) and 闘う in the context of struggling with or overcoming difficulties.

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