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Lernen vs. Studieren: What is the Difference in German?

While both terms might initially seem synonymous for English speakers, a closer inspection reveals distinct contexts and applications. In German, "lernen" and "studieren" are two verbs that are used to express different aspects of learning, and they are not interchangeable in all contexts. Scroll down to find a breakdown of their meanings.




  • Lernen:

  • Meaning: "Lernen" is a general term for learning or studying. It is used in a broad sense to refer to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, or information.

  • Usage: You can use "lernen" for any type of learning, whether it's in a formal or informal setting. It's suitable for learning facts, languages, or any other subject.

  • Example:

  • Ich lerne Deutsch. (I am learning German.)

  • Kannst du mir das erklären? Ich möchte es lernen. (Can you explain it to me? I want to learn it.)

  • Studieren:

  • Meaning: "Studieren" specifically refers to the academic or formal study, often at a university or college level. It implies a more structured and systematic approach to learning.

  • Usage: Use "studieren" when talking about attending a university, pursuing a degree, or engaging in academic studies.

  • Example:

  • Ich studiere Medizin an der Universität. (I am studying medicine at the university.)

  • Er studiert Geschichte und Politik. (He is studying history and politics.)

  • There's another meaning of "studieren" that roughly translates as "to inspect something closely" but it's not very common nowadays, e.g. "Er studiert sonntags ausführlich die Zeitung" (He reads the newspaper very thoroughly on Sundays).

So if you want to say "study German" as in you sit down with your books and work on your German skills, that's "Deutsch lernen", not "Deutsch studieren".In summary, "lernen" is a broader term encompassing all types of learning, while "studieren" is more focused on academic or formal studies at a higher educational institution.


Are you passionate about delving into the depths of the German language? Look no further! Our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!" is your go-to destination for an immersive exploration of German linguistics, culture, and learning tips. Whether you're beginner who wants to learn how to tell the time in German, at intermediate level and you'd like to revise

the rules on German sentence structure or at advanced level and you'd like to get a better understanding of the passive voice in German, we have the right post for you.


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