Выучивать vs учить

Alan Evangelista

Senior Member
Brazilian Portuguese
Hi, all!

What is the difference between выучивать and учить when they mean "to learn" ? Example:

Я выучиваю русский.
Я учу русский.

Thanks in advance!
 
  • Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "Выу́чивать" is an imperfective derivate from perfective resultative "вы́учить" and, as it often happens, it means that resultative activity being performed in an iterative manner of some kind. E.g.: "обы́чно я́ выу́чиваю но́вый язы́к за́ год" (~"Usually it takes me a year to have a new language learnt."). "Вы́учить", obviously, either describes an exact event of getting sth learned, or has a simple perfect meaning:
    "Я́ в про́шлом году́ вы́учил неме́цкий". (~In the last year I successfully finished studying German; I didn't know it before that monent and know it afterwards.)
    "Я́ вы́учил неме́цкий". (~I learnt German and now I know it.)
    "Я́ вы́учу неме́цкий." (~I'll have German learnt.)

    "Учи́ть", on the other hand, is a general activity - "to be learning sth", considered as continuous at some moment or probably performed in iterative fashion.
    "Я́ учу́ неме́цкий" (I'm in the midst of learning German; either I am doing it right at the moment, or I have some time spent learning German and I am planning to learn it further anyway.)
    "Я́ учу́ неме́цкий ка́ждую неде́лю" (Every week I spend some time learning German.)
    "Я́ учи́л неме́цкий" (I was learning German; I used to learn German but the learning apparently wasn't fully completed.)
    "Я́ бу́ду учи́ть неме́цкий" (I'll be learning German; I am going to spend time learning German.)

    Of course, it works in exactly the same fashion when "учи́ть"/"выу́чивать" is used in the causative meaning ("to teach").
     

    estreets

    Senior Member
    Russian
    If you try to choose which is better, Я выучиваю русский sounds awkward.
    Я учу русский sounds OK to me.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    I thought that to learn is учи́ться in Russian.

    Is "Я учусь русский" correct? And how to say "I teach Russian (i.e. I am a teacher)"?

    In Czech the reflexive pronoun is obligatory:
    učím se rusky (adv.) or učím se ruštinu/ruštině (acc./dat.), i.e. I am a student;
    učím ruštinu, i.e. I am a teacher;

    učiti = to teach;
    učiti se = to learn;

    impf. vyučovati = to teach (vyučuji ruštinu = I teach Russian, quite the same like učím ruštinu);
    perf. vyučiti se čemu (řemeslu) = to be apprenticed as/to sth;
     
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    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "Учить" in the meaning "to learn (often: by heart)" is colloquial/informal. It has a connotation of self-learning a secondary-school subject (as in preparing for a class at home):
    Учи правила! Иначе гулять не пойдёшь! (a parent to their child, regarding the child's homework)

    Still, "выучить" is neutral. "Выучивать" sounds a little unnatural and is often avoided in oral speech.
    Is "Я учусь русский" correct? And how to say "I teach Russian (i.e. I am a teacher)"?
    :cross:Я учусь русский. (a wrong case)
    :tick:Я учусь русскому. (=learn)
    :tick:Я учу русскому. (=teach)
    Note that the last two sentences are not the best as they stand. We would only use them as parts of some longer sentences that often connote learning from someone or teaching someone on a non-regular/sporadic or non-systematic/non-systemic basis (~from time to time, not very seriously):
    Я у них учусь грузинскому. Пока мало что понимаю.
    Я учу их русскому. Но они пока почти ничего не понимают.
    :thumbsup:Я учусь у него мудрости.
    :thumbsup:Я учу их вежливости.
    To mean more systematic/systemic learning/teaching, one says:
    Я изучаю русский. (or, colloquially: Я учу русский.)
    Я обучаю русскому языку. (or: Я преподаю русский язык.)

     
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    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Thanks, now I understand.

    Russian and Czech are related languages, but the phraseology and rection are quite different.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I thought that to learn is учи́ться in Russian.
    Is "Я учусь русский" correct?
    Of course, Slavic languages developed their reflexive constructions in a somewhat different manner and those often acquired additional meanings (e.g. Rus. убира́ться - to clean the room; that's likely the result of the merger between *sę and *si in Russian), but their main meanings are still the old Indo-European ones: reflexive, passive, medium and reciprocal. And, certainly, in Russian they still cannot attach direct objects - because morphologically they already contain one (I was surprised to learn that it isn't so in Czech; at least in Czech the reflexive marker is still a clitic and even retains the dative variant, so it all looks considerably more archaic - but well...).

    Still, as Vovan noted, the backgrounding conversion [учить + acc.] > [учиться + dat.] is quite possible (even though with considerable restrictions on the meaning of the verb).
     
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    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    (I was surprised to learn that it isn't so in Czech; at least in Czech the reflexive marker is still a clitic and even retains the dative variant, so it all looks considerably more archaic - but well...).
    In Standard (Literary) Czech:
    to teach: učiti koho (acc.) čemu (dat.);
    — učím studenty (acc.) ruskému jazyku/ruštině (dat.);
    to learn: učiti se (acc.) čemu (dat.);
    — učím se (acc.) ruskému jazyku/ruštině (dat.);

    However, colloquially we say "učím ruštinu (acc. instead of correct dat.) = я преподаю русский язык", hence incorrectly "učím studenty ruštinu (double acc.)" and even "učím se ruštinu". Normally the reflexive verbs with se cannot attach direct objects in accusative. The verb učiti se is a very rare exception (strictly speaking incorrect, but widespread): učím se ruštinu (acc.) = я учу русский, correctly učím se ruštině (dat.) like in Russian = я учусь русскому.
     
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    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Thanks for the answers!

    "Выу́чивать" is an imperfective derivate from perfective resultative "вы́учить" (...)
    E.g.: "обы́чно я́ выу́чиваю но́вый язы́к за́ год" (~"Usually it takes me a year to have a new language learnt.").
    (...)
    Учи́ть", on the other hand, is a general activity - "to be learning sth"
    (...)
    "Я́ учу́ неме́цкий" (I'm in the midst of learning German; either I am doing it right at the moment, or I have some time spent learning German and I am planning to learn it further anyway.)
    I am familiar with the difference between imperfective and perfective aspects. I'd appreciate if you could compare only the imperfective verbs to make the explanation simpler.

    What is the difference *in meaning* between "to have a new language learnt" and "to learn a new language"? I see none. Also, I think that the former is never used in English.

    The only difference I see between the 2 examples in the present tense that you provided is that one is talking about a present habit and the other one about an action in progress. Is that the difference between the two verbs or can both verbs be used in both contexts?

    "Учить" in the meaning "to learn (often: by heart)" is colloquial/informal. It has a connotation of self-learning a secondary-school subject (as in preparing for a class at home):
    Учи правила! Иначе гулять не пойдёшь! (a parent to their child, regarding the child's homework)
    Still, "выучить" is neutral.
    In English, "to learn something by heart" (eg. to learn the rules by heart = to memorize the rules) and "to learn a secondary-school subject" (eg. to learn Math) are very different connotations. "to learn by heart" is usually used in English with things which are not understood, but rather 100% memorized, eg. the lyrics of a song, the elements of the periodic table, the names of the nominees to an Oscar. Learning a secondary-school subject is usually done by understanding it and requires little memorization. So, usually one would not "learn a secondary-school subject by heart" in English.

    When you said "self-learning", did you mean "learning by yourself" (without a teacher) ? Learning is always done to yourself, so self-learning = learning and that expression is not used in English.

    :tick:Я учусь русскому. (=learn):tick:Я учу русскому. (=teach)
    What is this сь ending ?
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I'd appreciate if you could compare only the imperfective verbs to make the explanation simpler.
    I think it's a general tendency that if we have some basic imperfective verb which may denote both a processual activity and an iterative resultative activity (the latter often isn't the case; cf. лечи́ть), and some of its perfective derivates is different only in that it denotes a singular resultative event, then the imperfective verb further derived from it (if there is at least one) tends to be used in the iterative meaning only. E.g.:
    гото́вить (= to cook) > пригото́вить > приготовля́ть & пригота́вливать;
    вали́ть > свали́ть > сва́ливать;
    руби́ть > сруби́ть > сруба́ть;
    etc.
    The only difference I see between the 2 examples in the present tense that you provided is that one is talking about a present habit and the other one about an action in progress, but I guess that both verbs can be used in both situations?
    "Выу́чивать" is very unlikely, if not impossible, to denote an action in progress.
    "Учи́ть" basically can mean an iterative resultative activity as well, although, of course, it's highly context-dependent, and I'd say iterativity will be presumed only if the whole construction is unambiguous in that regard (e.g. "о́н ча́сто у́чит языки́" still will be interpreted as "often he is learning languages" and not "he often gets languages learnt"; cf., on the other hand, "о́н у́чит по три́ языка́ в го́д", where the very construction makes the continuous meaning pretty much impossible).
     
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    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Learning a secondary-school subject is usually done by understanding it and requires little memorization.
    Yes, but that colloquial meaning of "учить" very often (but not always) deals with memorization.
    Учить/выучить (=запоминать/запомнить) правила орфографии, формулы тригонометрии, законы Ньютона...

    Being able to reproduce orally in class what you've learned from your textbook at home is part of secondary-school education in Russia.
    А: Ты выучил географию (к завтрашнему уроку)?
    Б: Нам ничего учить не задавали. Каждый из нас должен сделать доклад.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Vovan, it's all right, but the point was that "to learn" in "to learn by heart" and in "to learn a language" are two quite different activities, and, by the way, Russian grammar recognizes that as well, treating "учи́ть" slightly differently depending on the meaning. For example, the aforementioned backgrounding conversion "учи́ть + acc. > учи́ться + dat." will work only for the first meaning:
    Он учится у меня русскому языку.:tick:
    Он учится отрывку из пьесы "Горе от ума".:cross:
     

    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The aforementioned backgrounding conversion "учи́ть + acc. > учи́ться + dat." will work only for the first meaning:
    Он учится у меня русскому языку.:tick:
    Он учится отрывку из пьесы "Горе от ума".:cross:
    You're right!:thumbsup:

    Well, we could then systematize the above-mentioned meanings:
    учить - 1. teach; 2. (colloquially) learn: a) study, b) learn by heart or fairly closely to the original text.
    учиться - 1. learn, study; 2. take classes, go to classes.
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    What is the difference *in meaning* between "to have a new language learnt" and "to learn a new language"? (...) I think that the former is never used in English.
    @Awwal12, could you answer this question? You have used that distinction again in:

    (e.g. "о́н ча́сто у́чит языки́" still will be interpreted as "often he is learning languages" and not "he often gets languages learnt";
    I do not understand the difference in meaning between the two constructs.

    we could then systematize the above-mentioned meanings:
    учить - 1. teach; 2. (colloquially) learn: a) study, b) learn by heart or fairly closely to the original text.
    учиться - 1. learn, study; 2. take classes, go to classes.
    That makes more sense. Thanks for summarizing it!
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I do not understand the difference in meaning between the two constructs.
    I has to agree there may be no actual semantic difference in English between "to learn a language" and "to have a language learnt". Still, it should be obvious that a process of learning isn't the same thing as an event when you actually get something learnt as a result of learning. In principle, both can occur iteratively, but we are normally concerned only about sets of repetative events as opposed to singular perfective events and to various kinds of processual activities.
     
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    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    :cross:Я учусь русский. (a wrong case)
    :tick:Я учусь русскому. (=learn)
    :tick:Я учу русскому. (=teach)
    (Just a thought)
    Therefore, as I understand it, it's the concept of "teach" that needs the dative case, whereas the concept of "learn" needs the accusative case.
    Я учусь русскому could also be rendered I teach myself Russian (Я учу меня русскому).
    But Я учу русский. (I learn)
     

    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Perseas, you're right:
    учу русский (learn Russian; Acc.)учусь русскому (am taught Russian; teach myself Russian; Dat.)
    учу русскому (teach Russian; Dat.)
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I has to agree there may be no actual semantic difference in English between "to learn a language" and "to have a language learnt". Still, it should be obvious that a process of learning isn't the same thing as an event when you actually get something learnt as a result of learning.
    I think I understand it now. у́чить focus on the process and Выу́чивать focus on the result. I humbly suggest you explain it like this in the future to English speakers, as both ideas are expressed equally in it: to learn something ("to have sth learned" does not make sense in English IMHO because nobody can learn something for you).

    Thanks for the patience!
     
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    Jade Wiga

    Banned
    xxxxxxxx
    Hi! Here are some nonacademic reflections on the matter:

    учить (что делать?) ( ~what do I do?) - ВЫучить (что сделать?) (~what have I done?)

    Я выучиваю русский.
    Выучиваю ≈ what have I already done? Because of the prefix Вы-. What English expresses with the help of auxiliaries and prepositions Russian often renders with prefixes and inflections (endings): I will see (that picture in the art gallery) - Я увижу (эту картину …); they have changed their mind - они передумали; ...this book? He only flicked through the pages... – ...эта книга? Он только (всего лишь) просмотрел (пробежал глазами) ...

    Я выучиваю русский sounds awkward and, indeed, incorrect because of the tense confusion: i.e. you either study a language or have studied it (as far as it is possible to master a language, anyway). Я изучаю русский would, perhaps, sound better.
    However, it is possible to say ‘Я выучиваю несколько новых слов каждый день’ (I learn several new words each day) because of выучиваю - что делаю? Repeated action in the present. But here again, you have a sort of ‘double vision’, so to speak: on the one hand, it is 'What do I do?' - I learn several new words. But the fact is the next day I know them, so I can say ‘I have learned several new words so far’. (The second implication comes because of the prefix Вы- and bears the result of the action, not only the process itself).

    Я учу русский. Sounds just Ok because it only has the meaning of the process, a certain repeated action. I guess, the logic of the language suggests that one can only study a language, not have studied it completely. Saying I have studied a language is an approximation anyway, it means I know it just enough to get around. There’s always something new in the language to find out even for native speakers, so we are all, more or less, if not in the same boat, still in the same ocean.


    A side note about to have a new language learnt.
    This phrase actually differes much from to learn a new language. The base of to have a new language learnt is (to) Have something done. And it usually inditates what someone does for us (not what we do ourselves!). If you google the phrase or, better, the grammar base of it there are tons of info out there on the topic. Cambridge Grammar, for instance, explains it the following way:

    Have something done
    What someone does for us

    We use have + object + -ed form when we talk about someone doing something for us which we ask or instruct them to do. It emphasises the process/action rather than who performs it:

    We’re having the house painted next week. (We are not going to paint the house ourselves. Someone else will paint it. The emphasis is on the fact that the house is being painted rather than who is doing it.)

    Compare

    I had my hair cut.
    Someone cut my hair.
    I’ve cut my hair.

    I’d cut my hair.
    I cut my own hair.



    We can also use have + object + -ed form when something bad happens, especially when someone is affected by an action which they did not cause:

    They’ve had their car stolen. (‘They’ are affected by the action of the car being stolen but they did not cause this to happen.)

    Hundreds of people had their homes destroyed by the hurricane. (Hundreds of people were affected by the hurricane, which they did not cause.)
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Here are some nonacademic reflections on the matter:

    учить (что делать?) ( ~what do I do?) -
    Perfectives aren't perfects, to begin with (even though they MAY have a perfect meaning in Russian).
    Perfective: "some event occured once".
    Perfect: "something happened in the relative past and still affects the reality at the specified moment".
    It's not too difficult to bring up examples where an English perfect tense doesn't correspond to Russian perfective verbs, and examples where Russian perfective verbs cannot be translated by a perfect tense are especially easy to come by.
    As much as perfective activities aren't grammaticalized in English, perfects aren't grammaticalized in Russian. I was sticking to "have something learnt" because "вы́учить", unlike "учи́ть", denotes a resultative activity, but that is also a simplification; consider "наконец через два года я выучил английский - хотя спустя ещё двадцать лет уже совершенно ничего не помню".
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    A side note about to have a new language learnt.
    This phrase actually differes much from to learn a new language. The base of to have a new language learnt is (to) Have something done. And it usually inditates what someone does for us (not what we do ourselves!).
    Correct. Putting it in another words, "to have sth learnt" is a causative construction. It means that the subject has asked/ordered someone to learn for the former. That does not make any sense. This construction is usually used with other verbs, eg to have my hair cut, to have my car washed, to have my house cleaned. @Awwal12 has misused the causative construction here; what he really meant is that the focus of the verb is on the result of learning, not the process.

    Now we can concentrate on Russian. :)
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Correct. Putting it in another words, "to have sth learnt" is a causative construction.
    I don't see why you think it must be exclusively causative. However, while "learned" and "learnt" must work equally well as the past participle, Google indicates a pretty strange disproportion between, say, "he has it learned" vs. "he has it learnt" and the like, the latter variant being really non-existent, though the former seems not uncommon (and by that I don't mean "not uncommon in twits of Japanese students and in Israeli newspapers").
     
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