Different words of "Study" in Russian

Learn to differentiate between various ways of saying Study in Russian

In your Russian learning journey, you have probably noticed that there are multiple verbs to choose from when trying to say, I am learning and I am studying in Russian. In the Russian language, there are several verbs that translate to study and/or learning. This article will go over the differences between the four verbs: изучать, учить, учиться, and заниматься


Изучать means studying a system of knowledge, an object, or a phenomenon in detail in order to understand how it is structured and how it functions. It usually takes a long period of time and is very often a subject at a school or a university.

For example:

  • На первом курсе мы изучали философию - We studied philosophy in our first year of College.
  • Они ходили в лес, чтобы изучать жизнь насекомых. - They went to the forest to study the life of insects.

This is a transitive verb and has to be complemented with a direct object. The thing that you study is in the accusative case - Мы изучали эту главу


Учить has two meanings.

1. Learning a piece of information, such as a rule, formula, or a poem. It is often learned via memorization

For example:

Хотите знать, как учить слова быстро? - Do you want to know how to learn words quickly?

Я учу русский онлайн. - I study Russian online. (notice how that this is not as a system of knowledge, but a piece of information, such as phrases and rules in order to speak)

This is a transitive verb and is used with the accusative case. The perfect aspect for this verb is выучить

2. Can also mean to teach someone to do something (not as a profession) such as to transferyour knowledge to someone else.

For example:

Я учу мою сестру играть на гитаре. - I am teaching my sister playing the guitar.

Кто учил тебя читать? - Who taught you to read?

The person who is taught in the above examples is the accusative case. If the thing that is taught is a noun, then the noun is in the dative case. The perfective aspect for this verb is научить

Кто учил тебя чтению? - Who taught you reading?


Учиться can convey two meanings:

1. Learning to do something, to receive knowledge, or to gain skills It is similar to the second meaning of учить (teach), but because this verb is reflexive, there is no object to teach. You are essentially teaching yourself to do something.

For example:

Я учусь делать суши. - I am learning to make sushi.

Дети быстро учатся говорить. - Children learn to speak quickly.

This verb can be complemented not only with a verb but also with a noun. The noun then is in the Dative Case.

Учиться языку лучше в детстве. - It’s better learning a language as a child.

The perfective aspect for this verb is научиться.

2. Учиться is also used when referring to a career of studying, of being a student.

For example:

Где вы учились? - Where did you study? ( Which school did you go to?)

Я учился в Московском университете. - I studied at Moscow University.

Он учится хорошо. - He is a good student.

In this meaning, the verb is used with the prepositional case to denote a place of studying. The perfective aspect for this meaning is выучиться


Заниматься literally means to occupy oneself [with] and refers to the process of studying - whether you study for an exam or doing homework.

For example:

Он часто занимается в библиотеке. - He often studies in the library.

Тихо, пожалуйста! Я занимаюсь! - Quiet, please! I am studying!

To specify exactly what it is that you are studying, use the instrumental case.

Чем он занимается в библиотеке? - What is he doing in the library?

Он занимается диссертацией. - He is working on his dissertation.