class vs. lesson

bokonon

Member
Serbian, Serbia
It's been some time now that this has been bugging me... is there any substantial difference between "lesson" and "class"?

I'm going to my Spanish lesson / I'm going to my Spanish class...?

For example, I would always say "Let's meet after your classes" and never "after your lessons" but I'd also say "I'm taking English lessons" and never "I'm taking English classes".

Any opinion / explanation will be most welcome :)

LP
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    By definition, the class is the set of people who should attend the lesson. But it has been normal for a very long time to refer to the XXX class, meaning the lesson. In fact, I don't remember talking about lessons at all when I was at school - of course that's such a long time ago as to be unreliable as a source:)
     

    helcatty

    New Member
    australia-english
    I dont think there is, its just the way that most people would say it. Its just because people are used to saying it that way.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    bokonon said:
    It's been some time now that this has been bugging me... is there any substantial difference between "lesson" and "class"?

    I'm going to my Spanish lesson / I'm going to my Spanish class...?

    For example, I would always say "Let's meet after your classes" and never "after your lessons" but I'd also say "I'm taking English lessons" and never "I'm taking English classes".

    Any opinion / explanation will be most welcome :)

    LP

    In AE it's quite ok to say "I'm taking English classes".
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    We speak of piano lessons, dance lessons, private lessons, Bible lessons. "Let's meet after your piano lesson." "I'll see you after my lesson." Class is more of a group.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    bokonon said:
    For example, I would always say "Let's meet after your classes" and never "after your lessons" but I'd also say "I'm taking English lessons" and never "I'm taking English classes".

    I would personally say:

    "after your classes" meaning in June, when you finish the term.
    "after your class" meaning at 6:30 when you get out of class today.
     

    Dminor

    Senior Member
    Dutch, the Netherlands
    Which of those (or maybe even another option?) would be most appropriate to designate lessons at university (without specifying that)? As in: "I record all of my lessons/classes".
     

    Alisterio

    Senior Member
    UK English
    We speak of piano lessons, dance lessons, private lessons, Bible lessons. "Let's meet after your piano lesson." "I'll see you after my lesson." Class is more of a group.

    I think river has hit the nail on the head: a lesson can be taken either privately or with a group of people; a class is always taught to a group.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    I think there's another difference:

    Although we use 'class' and 'lesson' interchangeably, there's a sense in which a course of study comprises a number of lessons, so we could say:

    'Last week, we looked at Lesson Six. Today we're at Lesson Seven.'

    When, however, we talk about class six or seven, we're more likely to be talking course as a whole.
     

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Could a native speaker tell me if it would be correct to use the words "class" and "lesson" like this:

    "He sometimes stays at the office after work for his German lessons. After classes he goes home" ?:confused:


    Thank you.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Xander, there has been no reply to your question for some time. I cannot speak for the whole English speaking word but I would not.

    Replacing the last sentence with "Afterwards he goes home." is sufficient, or just leave out the full stop and add ", then he goes home."

    GF..

    Some of us would also not use class in this way anyway... And it would be a complete re-write.
     

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the reply, George. You see, it is a sentence from an old textbook and it goes exactly as I have put it. Actually, they keep using these two words just like this all the time. In one and the same text they use "at a lesson" and "in class" and my students are quite confused about it.:(
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Thanks for the reply, George. You see, it is a sentence from an old textbook and it goes exactly as I have put it. Actually, they keep using these two words just like this all the time. In one and the same text they use "at a lesson" and "in class" and my students are quite confused about it.:(

    Xander2024,

    That's life unfortunately. As a dated BE speaker I would not use class, I would use lesson. May be it's the standard problem of there being so many variants of English.

    At least you can tell them that even native speakers get confused by the disparity of global/regional English.

    GF..
     

    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Would you say it's safe to always use "lesson" in modern BE? For example, is it normal in BE to say "in a lesson" instead of "in class" and "after the lessons" instead of "after classes"?

    Thank you.
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Let's try it this way.

    Because a class is a physical thing (a group of people being taught a lesson), and a lesson can be an abstraction (a section of a course of instruction) as well as a one-on-one meeting with a teacher, they are used very differently in sentences.

    Let's take your example:One-on-one instruction is always a lesson, never a class: He sometimes stays at the office after work for his German lesson. After the lesson he goes home. Notice that it made it singular. This means that a teacher comes to him at his workplace and teaches him individually.

    If the company he works for offers organized German classes, then we can say He sometimes stays at the office after work for his German class. After the class he goes home.

    In both cases, we can sayToday's lesson (i.e. the subject of today's teaching) was on the ethical dative. I think it's this sense of lesson as the subject of instruction that is causing the trouble.
     
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    Xander2024

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Yes, exgerman, that's exactly how I've always explained to my students the difference between "a lesson" and "a class". I just can't understand why the authors of the book keep mixing them up.

    Thank you.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    a lesson can be an abstraction (a section of a course of instruction)

    Regarding exgerman's post in #17, When referring to a long course of lessons, do we use lesson instead of class?

    "I take these classes for two years."

    I take many lessons and they last for 2 years.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    When referring to a long course of lessons, do we use lesson instead of class?

    "I take these classes for two years."

    I take many lessons and they last for 2 years.
    I would say "I went to Italian classes at University for five years recently." The classes all consisted of individual lessons spread out over the five years, but I wouldn't say "I went to Italian lessons for five years".

    PS - Incidentally, in BE to take a class could well imply that you were the teacher conducting the class. ;)
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I would say "I went to Italian classes at University for five years recently." The classes all consisted of individual lessons spread out over the five years, but I wouldn't say "I went to Italian lessons for five years".

    PS - Incidentally, in BE to take a class could well imply that you were the teacher conducting the class. ;)

    Do you mean we tend to use go to/have classes instead of go to/have lessons?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Do you mean we tend to use go to/have classes instead of go to/have lessons?
    It depends entirely on the context. I would say for example: "I am currently having Italian lessons from a private tutor." The context there is that a small group of us meet regularly with our tutor for lessons. I don't describe them as classes because they're not formal, organized sessions which form part of a course, in the way that the ones I had at university were.

    Exagerman's post (#17) should hopefully make that distinction a bit clearer.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It depends entirely on the context. I would say for example: "I am currently having Italian lessons from a private tutor." The context there is that a small group of us meet regularly with our tutor for lessons. I don't describe them as classes because they're not formal, organized sessions which form part of a course, in the way that the ones I had at university were.

    Exagerman's post (#17) should hopefully make that distinction a bit clearer.

    Got it. Thank you very much.
     

    bouquinistesofunderworld

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Differences between British and American English: class
    In both the UK and the US, a class is usually a group of students who are learning together: Jill and I were in the same class at primary school. You can also (especially in the US) use class to mean a group of students who all completed their studies in a particular year: Tim was in the class of 2005. Class can also mean a series of lessons in a particular subject: She’s taking a class in business administration. The usual British word for this is course : a course in business administration . Class can also mean one of the periods in the school day when a group of students are taught: What time is your next class? British speakers also use lesson for this meaning, but American speakers do not.
    (MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners 2nd Edition)
     
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