Hi, this is English Teacher Fred. Today I wanted to talk about the words “learn” and “study.” Because yesterday a student asked me about these two words. Usually teachers will say, “Learn and study- they mean the same thing.” Right? But they don’t mean exactly the same thing. They’re nearly the same. Sometimes you can use these two words the same way. But sometimes they are different. So I want to tell you about how they’re different.

“Learn” is when you actually know something. But “study” is the work that you do to learn something.

The reason this came up was, I was chatting with a student, a Vietnamese student, last night. I’m chatting in Vietnamese because I’m learning Vietnamese, and the student said, “I can help you.”

And I said, “Well, I want to learn but I don’t want to study.” It was sort of a joke, you know? I want to learn but I don’t want to study. Because it means I want to know but I don’t want to do the work because I’m lazy.

Everybody’s lazy, you know. Learning a language takes work and we all wish that we could just learn, just like that. But unfortunately, we have to work. We have to study.

So that’s why they asked me: what’s the difference? “Learn” means I want to know but “study” means do the work to learn.

For example, sometimes one of the words will be not correct. For example, if you’re using the simple past tense. If I’m talking about yesterday. If I ask somebody, “What did you do yesterday?” and they say, “Well, yesterday I learned English” it’s not exactly correct.

Because in this example you have to think about the grammar. Because in simple past it means something is finished in the past. So if I say, “Yesterday I learned English” that would mean that yesterday I learned 100% English. Know I know English 100% so now I can stop studying, because I know.

But we know that’s not really true. Because you can study a second language your entire life and you still don’t really know 100%. So, more correct would be to say, “Yesterday I studied English.” Because yesterday I studied, it means I’m doing the work, but today I will continue because I don’t know English 100% yet.

Yesterday I studied English: correct. Yesterday I learned English: maybe not.

Let’s see, what could you say… “Yesterday I learned a new word.” Okay, it would be correct. Because you did that in the past and you finished that in the past. You learned that in the past and it’s finished. Now you know that word. I learned that word in the past.

I hope that makes it a little bit clearer about “learn and “study,” how they are a little bit different, a little bit the same. Not always the same. Sometimes the same. I hope that helps you.


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