When to use “studieren” and “lernen” in German

When to use “studieren” and “lernen” in  German

While studying a language, there are many stumbling blocks one has to get out of the way. One of them is the right usage of words as “studieren” and “lernen” and here comes the tricky point: Which one should you choose? After this article, you will know which one to use when.

Mostly, people who study German prefer to use the verb “studieren” because they associate it with the English “to study”. In contradiction to it, they think that “lernen” is “to learn”. Well, this is not exactly right as you will see in the following explanation.

In the past, the verb “studieren” was widely used to explain the self study of diverse topics in a private frame which was mostly done in the corresponding “Studierzimmer” (study room) or in educational institutions which were run by the church and mostly meant for boys to study spiritual topics.

Now, things changed when the obligation to attend school was introduced in the 18th century and later on universities were opened to students of every social class that qualified for it.

Over time, the verb “studieren” changed its purpose and today, is only refers to the studies one does at a university or college. A student of these institutions is called “der Student / die Studentin”.

So you might ask yourself now, when do we use the verb “lernen”? Well, if you do study at a university or a college you do “lernen” and this includes literally everything:

  • Ich lerne in der Schule. (I study in school)
  • Du lernst Deutsch. (You study German)
  • Ich lerne Auto fahren. (I learn how to drive a car)
  • Wir lernen im Kochkurs kochen. (We learn how to cook in the cooking course).

As a last open point, we did not clarify yet, how to call a student that does not study at a university or college: We call him or her “der Schüler / die Schülerin” and also this could refer to endless things:

  • der Deutschschüler / die Deutschschülerin
  • der Yogaschüler / die Yogaschülerin
  • der Kochschüler / die Kochschülerin


Now, you should be able to use the verbs “studieren” and “lernen” in the right moment.

Bis bald!





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