While studying a language, many stumbling blocks are laying in the way fo success. For many German students, one of them is the right usage of words  “studieren” and “lernen”. In this article, I will explain to you the difference between these two verbs.

studieren” vs. “lernen

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


The history of the two verbs

In the past, the verb “studieren” was widely used to explain the self-study of diverse topics in a private frame. The reason for that is because one mostly studied in the corresponding “Studierzimmer” (study room) at home or in educational institutions which the church ran and that mostly meant for boys to explore somewhat spiritual topics.

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

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


When to use lernen

You might ask yourself now, when do we use the verb “lernen” in German? Well, if you do study at a university or at 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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