I accept study about where study is a noun ("He conducted a study about changes in population"), but I saw this construct in a local newspaper article and it struck me as odd. Here, study is a verb. Is this actually acceptable or is it just a regional variation that has mistakenly made its way into print?

More than 30 seventh- and eighth-graders and their chaperones will be flying to Washington, D.C., for a five-day trip to see the places and monuments they have been studying about this year.

The students have been studying about the U.S. government.

  • The standard idiom that turns up in a Google search is "This was a study about X" and "about" can be replaced with "on" or "of". I think that this is a misusage because while I think about, read about, and hear about X, I study X. But it may be a localism or a regionalism. Certainly, a good editor would have deleted "about" in that sentence.
    – user21497
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 22:54
  • I think you need to study the dictionary's full definition more carefully.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 0:17
  • study about, discuss about, etc. is often a South Asian English (especially Indian English) regionalism. Note that there are a few valid uses of study about outside of Indian English, but Indian English speakers often use study about even when the about is not required or needed. Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 1:35

3 Answers 3


With domains and other abstract areas, study used transitively rather than with a prepositional phrase (or what looks like one) is adequate and I would say to be preferred:

He is studying physics / medicine / history / the history of magic / the situation carefully / ...

However, there can be a distinct difference in meaning when an object that may be concrete is involved:

He was studying Rembrandt's paintings in the Springvale Art Gallery.

He was studying about Rembrandt's paintings in books he had borrowed from the library.

The difference is far clearer with:

She read Chaucer whenever she had any free time.

She read about Chaucer whenever she had any free time.

  • 4
    I agree that read/read about are different, but I'm not sure I agree for study. Even if I were only looking at a copy of a Picaso painting online or reading an article about the meaning behind the painting, I would use studying. Doesn't study already imply that I'm accessing all kinds of related information in addition to the original (if any)?
    – quietmint
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 23:24
  • @user113215 I agree with both you and Edwin. In an academic context I would tend to use study by itself and take the consultation of secondary or ancillary matter for granted; but in a 'school' context it might be valuable to distinguish study from study about: for instance, I would not want parents to think that their teenagers were studying sexually transmitted diseases at first hand! Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 1:11
  • 1
    Just because read Chaucer and read about Chaucer can convey different meanings doesn't imply a similar distinction can be made with study. It's just that we don't usually use a preposition after study, but it's certainly not that uncommon. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 3:11
  • 3
    Read about being correct does not make study about correct. We can study paintings, or learn about the painters, but we don't study about the painters. Study means to examine or scrutinise an object - study a face - but the verb for gaining knowledge is learn. We study a book to learn about painters. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 7:01

Your final paragraph seems to betray a misunderstanding about objects. In your text, studying does not have an object: about is not the object of the verb. Neither is it a preposition in the first place where it appears. It modifies studying. In this context, about might best be described as an adverb.

The usage is awkward because study does not typically get paired with about as a modifier. A better word in its place would be learning, because learn is commonly used with about.

  • Why has this answer got two down votes, when what he says is completely correct? +1 from me to offset the political voting. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 6:51
  • Maybe retaliatory voting. I've suddenly had three downvotes in the last hour, one on an answer I posted almost a year ago. Not worth fretting about.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 15:56
  • Didn't Churchill say: "Oh yes, democracy is the worst possible form of government. Apart from all the others"? Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 20:36
  • On the other hand, I had to read your answer three times before I figured out what you were saying and that you were correct. Maybe the downvoters only read it once. For example, "neither is it a preposition in the first place where it appears" could be phrased more comprehensibly. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 2:41
  • Edit welcome. It seems plain to me but I never mind getting schooled.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 2:46

">OED says "To apply the mind to the acquisition of learning, whether by means of books, observation, or experiment. †Const. in, on, upon (a book, a branch of learning). See also sense 1d."

1d is "To make a close study of (a subject), to ‘bone’ up (on, in), esp. in preparation for some display of knowledge (intr. use of sense 7b). U.S. colloq.

1946 Chicago Daily News 25 June 31/3 Ah'll git a li'l closer, an' study up on him! 1956 R. Robinson Landscape with Dead Dons xiii. 114, I am sure that if you once studied up a little in psychology you would be as struck as I was."

It also mentions a second sense of 'meditation':" To think intently; to meditate (about, †of, on, upon, in); to reflect, try to recollect something or to come to a decision. Now dial. and U.S. colloq."

This does allow a 'about', but is non-standard; a US colloquialism or dialect.

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