У меня есть вопрос: что в чём разница между "начать и начаться" и "учить и учиться"?

What is the difference between "начать и начаться" and "учить и учиться"?

  • 1
    What does dictionary say?
    – Abakan
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 17:36
  • @Abakan The dictionaries I was looking at said that the first two both meant "to begin" and that the second two meant "to learn". However, their usage (between the reflexive and non-reflexive) seemed to be different. Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    Is it a question about these specific words or about consistent pattern in general? Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 9:10
  • @AnatolyRybalchenko Why not both? Ideally the latter, but if not possible, then just the former. Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 9:45

3 Answers 3


I asked my friend this question a while ago, and she gave a very thorough and thoughtful response, so I thought I would post it here so more people could benefit from it in the future.

You can't imagine how puzzled I was. So, I had to think really hard about it. =D Ты не представляешь, как меня озадачил. Так что пришлось серьёзно подумать об этом.

Ok. Now, a little bit of grammar introduction (there is nothing new I guess so just roll with it if you know it). Pairs of words 'начать' and 'начаться', and 'учить' и 'учиться' have the same roots and here sometimes close meanings. The most obvious difference is the '-ся' postfix. It shows that the verb is reflexive, so in Russian that means that the object and the subject in the sentence are probably the same, e.g Я одеваюсь - I dress myself, Мы виделись утром - We met (each other) in the morning etc. Thus, when using verbs with a postfix, you usually mean that the subject and object are the same. Most of grammar stuff is over. Anyway, Повторение - мать учения*.

As to your pairs of words. По поводу твоих слов.

Let's start with 'учить' and 'учиться': the general meaning is 'to learn' in most cases.

However, there are some differences. It is better to show by examples. Но есть некоторые различия. Это лучше видно на примерах.

'Учиться' in most cases means 'to learn how to do something'. Using the word 'учить' with verbs we get the meanig 'to teach'

Учиться танцевать. - Learn to dance. Учить танцевать - Teach to dance. More about a person: Я учусь танцевать - I learn to dance (kind of by myself). Я учу танцевать - I teach to dance.

And it's all the same with verbs.

Now more complicated. These words with nouns and pronouns. Сейчас посложнее. Эти же слова с существительными и местоимениями.

The grammatical difference is that after 'учить' goes accusative case and after 'учиться' dative. Frankly speaking, I'm not sure how to systemize the use of them. Разница в грамматике состоит в том, что после 'учить' нужен винительный падеж, а после 'учиться' дательный. Честно говоря, я не уверена как можно систематизировать их использование.

However, here are some tips. When you need to say that you study at university, school, are taking a course etc. you use 'учиться': Я учусь в университете. Я учусь на курсах. и т.п. But I study law at university. Я учу юриспруденцию в университете. (The best is 'изучаю', but anyway...)

Also, 'учиться' is similar to the meaning of simple tenses (regularity), and 'учить' besides that can be also used to describe continuous action. Я учусь грамоте. (the same as present simple) Я учу грамоту. (May be both simple or continuous, it depends on the context.)

Now 'начать' and 'начаться'. I almost wrote a book. First, we don't use 'начаться' with verbs. At all. Первое, мы не ставим 'начаться' с глаголами. Совсем.

If you need to say I started to read, to sing, to cry etc. you use form of the word 'начать'.

'Начаться' is more commonly used in impersonal constructions such as Начался дождь. It started to rain. Началась гроза. A storm began. Урок начался. The lesson began. Фильм начался. The film started. As if something started by itself. Puts more selfness in a sentence. =)

In other cases you probably will use 'начать'. Oh, as to cases. 'Начаться' needs nominative and 'начать' accusative.

Hope it's more or less helpful, Надеюсь, что это более менее полезно.

*Repetiljo est inaier studiorum


The difference is that "учить" and "начать" need an object (you can only "учить" or "начать" something) while "учиться" и "начаться" do not.


Группа начала концерт ровно в 19-00 (The band began the concert exactly at 19-00)


Концерт начался ровно в 19-00 (The concert began exactly at 19-00)

It's not so strict with "учиться" and mostly depends on context. "Учиться ездить на велосипеде" means "to learn to ride a bike" while "учить ездить на велосипеде" means "to teach to ride a bike". At the same time "учить математику" is "to learn math" but "учить девочку" is "to teach a girl" :).


the answer is very simple: first verb in each pair is transitive, the second is not, which determines their usage

reflexive verbs are intransitive

  • 2
    How would this help a beginner, lol?
    – VCH250
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 18:30
  • 1
    the question was about the difference, so i named it, i'm sure Russian grammar books deal with different classes of verbs, and the details are already explained there so it only takes a search by the names of these classes which i did mention, i guess this place is for the difficult bits and/or not illuminated elsewhere, transitive and intransitive verbs is basics Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 18:34

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