I thank everybody for the explanations; the question remains, for me, a little complicated. My doubts were originated by some translations, that follow, I found in an on-line dictionary (I translated the Italian translation into English)

  1. она подучила его немецкому языку — gli insegnò un po' di tedesco (he taught him a little German); in this case подучить is translated as learning a little, only the basics of German.

  2. Её подучили, она стала медицинской сестрой" (В. Панова) — "Imparò a fare l'infermiera" (V. Panova) (she learned how to work as a nurse); in this case, not knowing all the Russian text, in my opinion the translations could be the following two:

    a. somebody taught her the basics in order to allow her to work as a nurse, may be in order to face an emergency situation;

    b. she had acquired before a professional experience as a nurse and this experience has been improved by adding something;

  3. перед отъездом в Германию он подучился немецкому — prima di andare in Germania imparò un po' di tedesco (before leaving to Germany he learned some German); in this case, as the first, подучить has been translated as learning a little.

I thank for every clarification.

  • 3
    Подучить -> improve a little
    – Matt
    Jul 27 '15 at 15:49
  • @user4419802 not necessarily. Native speakers won't see a misuse if you mean "learn a little bit of ..."
    – user1514
    Jul 27 '15 at 17:29
  • You are right Antonio, “to learn” means studying a little and also the opposite,i.e. improving his own knowledge about some subject. Jul 27 '15 at 17:53
  • 1
    @culebrón I say, the dictionaries won't see yet the people will. These two meanings are not compatible and may lead to confuse. I believe the dictionaries are outdated in this particular case - "learn a little bit" is not what any living person means by saying "подучить" even if 100 years ago it was the other way round.
    – Matt
    Jul 27 '15 at 17:57
  • 1
    Your first attempt was far more productive, when you asked of the prefix под-. And by the way, a significant change in the Original Question may lead to breaking the validity of answers that were already given. This changes are greatly discouraged.
    – Avtokod
    Jul 28 '15 at 9:16

I checked in the dictionaries and I found that “подучить” means studying a little and also the opposite,i.e. improving his own knowledge about some subject.

That's not the opposite.

Я хочу подучить испанский implies you already have some knowledge of Spanish and intend to improve it a little bit.

It would be wrong to use it if you had no prior knowledge of Spanish whatsoever, you would use выучить instead.

  • 2
    "Выучить язык" means to master it (at least) on a moderate level. "Немного поучить" should be better here.
    – Matt
    Jul 27 '15 at 15:57
  • Disagree. Выучить means mastering to a reasonably good level.
    – user1514
    Jul 27 '15 at 17:13

I think the closer translation to Italian of (2) will be something between lei era imparata... and lei è stata imparata..., for me the second looks more natural, but both are acceptable.

In this case под- means little effort, doing something easily or slightly and usually having some background on the subject. When there is no background experience I'd certainly use поучить or выучить.


подучить meant to improve knowledge of something to a certain pre-determined level from a lesser level (but not completely learn). I.e. to approach the pre-determined level from below (thus the preposition под).

1. ------ perfect level

2. ------ planned level

3. ------ current level

4. ------ no knowlwdge

You want to approach 2 from 3.


@Antonio you're right, it is correct to say like that. It does not necessarily imply adding to something that existed. For example

подлить масла в огонь

means pour oil onto fire, whether it has been done before or not.

Я еду в Испанию и хочу подучить язык.

Is absolutely correct. This form does not require adding something to something. Natvie speakers won't see any problem in this usage, unless they're interested in languages.

100% is to say

вижу, он работал в поле - подзагорел заметно.

I see he worked in the field: he's got a bit of sunburn. This does not at all mean he had or had not any sunburn.

Another user suggested

немного поучить испанский

which is 100% correct but sounds a bit unambitious, like if one seriously plans not achieving anything.


Значение слова ПОДУЧИТЬ Толковый словарь русского языка. Д.Н. Ушаков

подучить подучу, подучишь, сов. (к подучивать), кого-что.

Научить, ОБУЧИТЬ НЕМНОГО чему-нибудь. (разг.). 1. Подучить мальчика столярному делу. Его еще надо подучить, тогда будет хорошим мастером.

Заучить, УСВОИТЬ ПОЛУЧШЕ (разг.). Подучить формулу.

(несов. также подучать). Научить сделать что-нибудь, подговорить. Он меня подучил сказать дерзость.

Толковый словарь русского языка. С.И.Ожегов, Н.Ю.Шведова.

подучить -учу, -учишь; -ученный; сов. (разг.).

кого-что. Научить немного чему-нибудь или выучить несколько лучше. Подучить практиканта. Подучить урок.

кого (что), с неопр. Подговорить сделать что-нибудь плохое, предосудительное. Подучить солгать.

несов. подучивать, -аю, -аешь.

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