Guide for using the various Russian verbs of Teaching, studying, learning, etc.

Всем здравствуйте!

This is a page for those that need help with the various Russian words of learning such as учиться, изучать, etc. Russian natives may critique me and correct me (and learners may ask questions and create suggestions too).

Изучáть/ Изучи́ть- to study (+ acc)

The verb изучать is used to indicate the subject one is taking at university, college or school. The subject studied is the direct object of the verb изучать. It must be in the accusative case and must always be mentioned. The question asked is: Что (What).

Ex: -Что ты изучаешь? What do you study? (What are you studying?) -Я изучаю русский язык и литературу. I study Russian language and literature

Ex: - Что изучает Сергей?
What (course/subject) is Sergey studying? - Сергей изучает физику в университете.
Sergey is taking physics at university.

Ex: Я изучаю русский язык уже пять месяцев. I have been studying Russian language for five months (lit. I am studying Russian language already five months)

Even though изучать is "to study", it cannot be translated as "to learn"!!! Yes, it is used as a way to describe learning a language, but Russian already has a word for "to learn" just like in English. Think of it as a separate word like you have in English or your mother tongue. изучать means study, focusing on the process of studying, a continuance of studying.

Use Изучи́ть ( a perfective verb), which is used to describe a completed action that is done successfully, as a complete whole (изучить and вы́учить correspond to "to master", "to learn successfully") Think of Perfective verbs as a word as you have finished the action, or even expect a result, such as "Have I finished eating yet? Did I finish writing it?" Have I done it yet? Is it finally over????" If you haven't finished it completely, or you have failed to complete it, you stick with the imperfective verb.

  • Мэри выучила русский язык= Mary mastered Russian ( completely studied it, finally mastered it)
  • Борись Карлович изучал экономику Англии= Boris Karlovich has made a thorough study of the British economy (lit. Boris Karlovich (completely) studied the economy of the British)

-учи́ть/выучить (Я учу, ты учишь) = to learn, to memorize

Depending on the context, учить can have a few meanings:

  1. учи́ть + Accusative means to learn, to memorize something (учи́ть наизУсть- to learn by heart)

Ex: Я учу слова: I learn words. - Я учу русский язык уже шесть лет: I have been learning Russian for six years

  1. учи́ть + Accusative + DATIVE = to teach somebody/something

Ex: Я учу студентов русскому= I teach students Russian

Think of them this way. If you are are, for example "I'm learning these words" (committing them to memory), it is "Я учу эти слова" while "She's studying mathematics (not 'She's learning mathematics') should be Она изучает математику.

** Учи́ться/ вы́учиться or научи́ться- to study (somewhere!)

You can use this reflexive verb if you want to say that you're studying without saying "what" you are studying

Ex: Я учусь в Лондоне = I'm studying in London учиться is used to indicate that someone is a student, i.e. goes to school, university or college somewhere. The question asked is: Где (Where).
It is also used to describe how well one is doing at school, university or college (what kind of student he or she is). In that case, the question asked is: Как (How).

Где ты учишься? - Where do you study (go to school)?

<pre>-Я учусь в университете. I study in a university. (I go to a university). </pre>
  • Как ты учишься? How do you study? (do at university (school))?

    • Я учусь хорошо. I study well (I do well (I'm a good student))

. The verb учиться (to go to school) must not be confused with the verb учить (to learn, memorize). These are two different verbs.

Another way to think of this: * Учиться -to study (to attend classes or to do self study) Ex: Днём я учусь =In the morning I study (self study, or attend classes) Ex: Я учусь готовить (I'm studying/learning how to cook). Дима учится в колледже (Dima studies in college. He is taking classes currently). These express a length of time, this is a continuous action.

  • Учиться в(на) + Preposition = to study SOMEWHERE, to be in 3rd grade or 3rd year Ex: Девочка учиться в школе, в 3-м классе. =The girl studies IN school, in the 3rd grade.

ANOTHER VERB **** научиться= to learn how to. However, this is learning when you're talking about obtaining a particular SKILL Ex: Она научилась плавать в школе= She learned how to swim at school Ex: Я хочу научиться готовить= I want to learn how to cook

***занима́ться/ заня́ться- to study, learn, OR to be occupied with, engaged in

The verb заниматься is used to describe the process of studying (doing homework). This verb never takes a direct object. The question asked is: Где (Where).

Ex: Где ты занимаешься? Where do you study (do your homework)? Я часто занимаюсь в библиотеке. I often study (do my homework) in the library.

Где занимается твоя сестра? Where does your sister study (does her homework) Моя сестра занимается дома. My sister studies (does her homework)at home

You can use Insturmental case with this verb as well as other verbs (быть, становиться/стать to become, etc), which in turn will mean "to study (something)".

Ex: Мы занимаемся историей России= We are studying the history of Russia Ex: Чем Вы занимаетесь? What are you doing? (With what are you occupying your self with)

Last one: **препода́ть/ преподава́ть= to teach (something)

Basically, it means "to give lessons, to instruct, lecture; to be a teacher" преподаватель= teacher (university level)/professor, lecturer

a) преподавать + Accusative - to teach, lecture

(b) преподавать (used on its own in the sense of "to be a teacher/lecturer")

Ex: Я преподаю русский язык. (Accusative) - I'm a teacher of Russian. (lit: I teach Russian language.)

Ex: Я преподаю в университете. (no supplement) - I lecture at a university.

Those are ALL the various forms I can think of, and I hope I did not give you a headache. This is just in case something doesn't make sense or things to help you remember, so I'm sorry if it was a lot! It helped me remember and learn as I typed all of this. I hope this helped! ^_^

June 14, 2016


Thanks for this - very helpful, if a little brain-melty. Вот лингот!

I was just wondering, is изучать/изучить only used for school/university or can it be for self-study as well? Я изучаю русский язык дома.

June 15, 2016

It can be used for studying in any places, so your sentence is correct.

June 15, 2016

Great thanks!

June 15, 2016

How about plain научить, обучить, and обучать?

Most useful post. I have been wondering about precisely this. It's tough getting the Anglophone brain wrapped around the idea to teach and to learn can both be expressed by the same verb! Is it correct that in order for учить to mean to teach, it has to have an animate direct object?

June 29, 2016

Yes, учить needs animate accusative. Make sure you follow the rules as to when you use animate (for living/moving things) or inanimate (nonliving/nonmoving things). Verb "учить" + object in Accusative sometimes means "to learn" and sometimes mean "to teach". Actually they are homonyms. Which one is used should be understood from the context. Just remember it all depends on context! :) Usually if the object is animate then it is "to teach" else it is "to learn". In case of "to teach" meaning an indirect object in Dative can be used to specify what is to teach.

учить урок = to learn lesson (Accusative, direct object) • учить сына = to teach a son (Accusative, direct object) • учить жизни = to teach how to live (Dative, indirect object) • учить сына жизни = to teach a son how to live (сына - Accusative, жизни - Dative)

научить is the perfective form of учить,

обучать (+ object in Dative + object in Accusative) = to teach something. to someone (обучать математике студентов)

обучать / обучить imperfective/perfective

June 29, 2016

Stellar clarification. I have one question that I haven't found answered anywhere: What about expressions for quantity of time(e.g. I study много?)


October 15, 2017

96Seaturtles, excellent post - I have a question, hopefully you will see it. Can you give any explanation of how учить (teach) and учить (learn) came to be homonyms? I mean, they're kind of polar opposites, or completely opposite sides of the same coin might be a better way to put it. I would think homonyms develop rather randomly and do not such closely related meanings. Am I looking for logic where there is none? (And when you add the verb учиться it really gets confusing )))

May 16, 2019
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