I don't know how to phrase my question better, but I just want to know if there will be any little difference if I directly replace one with the other.

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    The difference is not subtle: they have significantly different meanings, as Alenanno has shown.
    – msanford
    Apr 5, 2011 at 12:35
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    I've been studying all day but I don't think I've learned anything...
    – fredley
    Apr 5, 2011 at 16:26
  • I don't think I've ever studied anything accidentally. Apr 5, 2011 at 21:35
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    Can anyone clarify the meaning in this particular case? He's learning English. vs He's studying English. Is there a situation where both sentences mean the same thing? (IE, he's taking classes) Apr 6, 2011 at 3:22

8 Answers 8


I think we can generally divide them like this, although the separation may not always be so clear.

To study is the action, (from the dictionary) "the devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject", so the activity itself.

To learn is the result of that action, or as you can see in the Dictionary again, "gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught".

  • 6
    The two may also be disassociated. You may study without learning, or you may learn without studying.
    – apoorv020
    Apr 5, 2011 at 14:02
  • Best answer here. Apr 5, 2011 at 15:47
  • @Apoorv020: Yes, you're right. And then, thanks Django for the comment and Fumble for the correction. Even after years of "studying", I still make mistakes now and then. It's true when they say you never stop "learning".
    – Alenanno
    Apr 5, 2011 at 17:41

Well, you can study without learning, but you can't often learn without studying, at least in academic subjects.

Saying "I studied English" means you took classes in English. It does not necessarily mean you learned anything. Saying "I learned how to tie a clove hitch" means you actually acquired a useful skill.

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    Its just as common to learn something without deliberately studying it, through trial and error or life experience (the "school of hard knocks")
    – BradC
    Apr 5, 2011 at 13:42
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    @Robusto "you can't often learn without studying" is wrong. You learn a lot of things without studying. Even within its context it's wrong. I've learned a lot of English from watching TV, movies and playing games. I don't consider that studying, but English is an academic subject. I also learn a lot from reading on SE and I don't consider that studying either.
    – Erik B
    Apr 5, 2011 at 15:30
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    @Erik B: Read the final clause in the sentence you quote.
    – Robusto
    Apr 5, 2011 at 15:40
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    Erik B is right. You can learn in many different ways, and to say something as general as "you can't often" is a bit bizarre, unnecessary and open for debate. Otherwise great answer though +1 Apr 5, 2011 at 15:47
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    @Erik B - that's why you have to be careful, you could end up studying something without realising - the programs should include warnings
    – mgb
    Apr 5, 2011 at 17:52

To learn is a much broader term than to study. I agree that learning is a result, but it is most often a result of no conscious action on our part. We learn from the moment we exist, taking in the lore (related word) of language and customs of those around us through all of our senses. We learn every moment of our lives, even while sleeping. When we study (from Latin studium ‘zeal, painstaking application’) we make a conscious effort to learn a specific lore. Learning is always the result, even if what we learn is that we can't make heads nor tails of what we are studying. But learning is a given whether we study or not.


Learning is gaining knowledge.

Studying is pursuing knowledge.


In my case, just because I studied chemistry in high school does not mean I learned it.


I consider the difference more than subtle.

You can study without learning and, yes, you can learn without studying.

Studying is the act of trying to gain information. It generally results in learning. Learning is acquiring new information. It can result from study, but also from everyday life and experiences.


They are very distinct - study implies some kind of focus, while learning can happen by perhaps a broader mechanism. Usage would depend upon context. Study also can be a verb or a noun, so that might influence using or avoiding it depending upon context.

FWIW, the term "study" is not used, for example, when discussing work towards degrees in England (at Oxford or Cambridge) - in that case the term used is "read", as in "I read Maths at Cambridge", or "What is Sally reading at Oxford?"


To study, doesn't necessarily mean you'll learn anything. For example, in High School, I was required to study History, and it was very boring and I had trouble paying attention, therefor I did not learn anything.

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