If someone is studying something for a longer period, concentrated, focused: is he rather a "persistent learner" (which yields more hits at google) or a "persevering learner" (which seem to be used more often in bible references and on religious websites)?

According to @Thursagen's answer, persevering would be the positive notion.


4 Answers 4


I'd say a diligent, or hardworking student.

EDIT: I'm a US American, and learner is a funny word --- I can't tell you offhand what the rule is, but it appears in sentences like "He's a slow learner". When I Google for "learner", Google responds with "a fast learner", which is ok too. So in my opinion, learner/student is one of those word pairs where they're each used in slightly different situations.

Similar to how in the US, student driver is far more common, and in the UK, it's learner driver.

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    Thanks @Chappo I'll check that out. Yeah, I'm answering the bigger implied question and what I think the OP needs to know: "If someone is studying something for a longer period..." And I'd hate to give advice about learner when that's not even idiomatic in the first place, yet we all give the impression that it is.
    – Johnny
    Dec 31, 2018 at 23:38
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    How is learner not "idiomatic". If I'm learning to drive a car, I'm called a learner. If I have some difficulties I must overcome (say, a disability) but I diligently persist and persevere, why is it not appropriate for my driving instructor to describe me as a persistent [or persevering] learner to differentiate me from those who don't persist (i.e. who give up)? Jan 1, 2019 at 0:09
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    @Chappo: I agree with Johnny.   According to Google, "student" is about 20 times more common than "learner".   In the US, the standard term for somebody who is learning to drive a car is "student driver". Jan 1, 2019 at 1:08
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    @Scott Interesting regional variation. In my country (BritE) “student driver” is non-idiomatic, and might be assumed to mean they have a part time job as a driver while they study at uni. Jan 1, 2019 at 6:09
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    Here in Canada, most lay people would use "student" but "learner" was in common use, among educators and educational theorists a while back. It's a useful distinction. A student may be no more than someone occupying a chair in a classroom, while a learner is, by definition learning.
    – Al Maki
    Jan 1, 2019 at 19:41

Between the two options presented, "persistent learner" sounds more natural to me but has some slight connotations that make it less than ideal. In particular, persistence and perseverance when applied to people typically mean "continuing despite adversity". In other words, rather than generally being "somebody who works hard at studying" a persistent learner is specifically "somebody who has a hard time studying but does so anyway", or "somebody who spends a lot of time studying because they need more time to learn the same amount".

If you want to describe someone who studies a lot or works hard at it, the best adjective would be "studious". "Studious learner" is a bit redundant though, if you're combining with a noun like "learner" that already implies that studying is being done then the adjective "diligent" is better, with the best phrase I can think of being "diligent student" assuming that the person is in fact a student.


"Persistent" vs "Perservering" refers to two different kinds of adversity.

"Persistent" is for ordinary adversity, like partying or romantic distractions.

"Perservering" means extraordinary or overwhelming adversity, like oppression or discrimination.

  • Santa Cruz has a reputation as a party school, but Kate was a persistent student - never missing a class and carrying a 4.0 average.
  • Leads on the case were few and far between, but Hercule Poirot was nothing if not persistent."
  • None of the women on the science team were taken seriously - yet they proved to be the better scientists; they had each perservered through worse simply to get here.
  • The German doomed their nuclear program, having long decried the science as "Jewish physics", and directing SS inquisitions against those who perservered in its study.
  • Your explanation makes a lot of sense and the examples are useful, but I'm reluctant to upvote your answer because you've included no evidence to support it - it currently stands as just a personal opinion, and how can we tell if you're misinformed? Can you add some dictionary definitions or other authoritative references to confirm your interpretation? Happy to upvote if you do... :-) Dec 31, 2018 at 23:44
  • @chappo at your request... Jan 1, 2019 at 0:09
  • According to MW's definition, persevere means "to persist ... in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement" - not quite "extraordinary or overwhelming adversity", although the extreme is necessarily part of the range. I think your analysis is correct in its direction but poor in its expression. I'll upvote as promised, but you could garner upvotes from others with a further revision... Jan 1, 2019 at 0:20

Somebody seems to have coined the phrase 'persistent learner', but persistent is normally used when someone keeps on doing something undesirable, like a child pestering a parent for sweets, or in a phrase like 'persistent cough'.

OK, the dictionary definition doesn't specify a negative implication, though an old (1934) edition of the Concise Oxford in my possession defines persist as Continue firmly or obstinately (in opinion, course, doing) esp. against remonstrance &c.

To my way of thinking, you persist in a bad course, persevere in a good one.

  • So 'persistent learner' can be used in a positive way, even though 'persistent' per se is usually rather negative?
    – kalle
    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:04
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    I would have to disagree your interpretation of 'persistent'. As far as I can tell there's no negative implication to what the person is attempting.
    – bxk21
    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:40
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    -1 I agree with @bxk21 on this one--your definition of persistent being "normally used when someone keeps on doing something undesirable" is simply untrue. Persistent only means that someone is working against opposition, setbacks or failure. Whether that opposition be deserved or not has nothing to do with the word. Perhaps you could edit the answer to include why you believe what you say to be true?
    – scohe001
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:05
  • I don't see the connection between "pester" and "persist." Can you provide other negative uses of "persistent"? Dec 31, 2018 at 19:30
  • I didn't say there was a connection between 'pester' and 'persist', I just used that example of a person being persistent.. Jan 1, 2019 at 9:47

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