学生 (がくせい)/ 生徒 (せいと) Difference And When to Use?!


#1

Hello Peeps, I have a question about せいと and がくせい :weary:

I’ve been learning Japanese Grammar with a German Book for about 5 months now and I came across 学生 and 生徒 multiple times and got them always messed up when working on an exercise that included the word “Student”. I know 学生 means student and 生徒 actually means pupil but in german it’s the same thing (Schüler). The book says that “学生/がくせい” is used as a “job title / profession” while “生徒/せいと” is the opposite of “先生/せんせい” (teacher) and is the person who learns in a Teacher-Student-Relationship. You can say: “私は学生です。/I’m a student” but “私は生徒です。/I’m a pupil” is wrong… but “私は田中さんの生徒です。/I’m Mr. Tanaka’s pupil” is correct…

I’m crying out for help because an exercise asked me to write a sentence with “A student/with his teacher/with new bicycles/to university/drive”. My first thought was
"Student-Teacher-relationship= 生徒/せいと" but that was wrong. The solution says “学生は先生と新しい自転車で大学に行きます”
“がくせいはせんせいとあたらしいじてんしゃでだいがくにいきます”

I was hoping that some kind soul would be able to explain the difference between them thoroughly and maybe some examples when to use what in English or German, I don’t care xD
Sucks to be learning Japanese by yourself. :joy:
Disclaimer: Translating German from the book into English was a bit challenging so don’t judge.

Thank y’all for taking your time :ok_man:

PS: The book is called “Japanisch Schritt für Schritt Band 1” by Martin & Maho Clauß for anyone who understands German and wants to start grammar, I’m loving the book so far.


#2

Your clue here was “university.” In that situation it’s always okay to say 学生. If you look at a Japanese dictionary, it’ll explicitly mention university often with regard to 学生.


#3

So 生徒 would be wrong in that sentence? If they were going to the canteen would 生徒 be correct though?


#4

生徒 has a decidedly “younger than university age” feel to it. It’s probably not impossible, but it doesn’t feel like the best answer.

Taking a look at the definitions for 生徒, that second definition colors the usage often.

せい と [1] 【生徒】

学校や塾などで教えを受ける者。
A person who learns at a school or cram school.

小学校の児童や大学の学生に対し,中学校・高等学校で教育を受ける者。
In contrast to elementary school children and university students, middle school and high school students specifically.

I’m not sure how that changes anything. It’s still a university student even if you change where they’re going, unless you mean “if they didn’t give me university in the question?”


#5

So the difference is just “University student” and “Middle/High school student”? Does the Relationship (with hisstudent) still play a role? And what should I use when it’s unknown which school the student goes to?


#6

If you have absolutely no age information or other context to go on, 生徒 is the more general category that can apply to more people. Many people who are studying things can’t possibly be thought of as 学生.


#7

I think I got it but I guess practice will show me if I understood them correctly :man_shrugging:t2:

ありがとうございます for taking answering :slight_smile:


#8

If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s an article in Japanese, though it’s more about legal or technical distinctions.


#9

Although you may have gotten your answer from @leebo, I think that you are already on the right track, but for whatever reason you lost your focus.

As you already wrote:

So for your exercise, the reason why 学生 is correct isn’t just because of university is used as a hint as @leebo suggests but because you’ve mixed up who is the focus of the sentence. The sentence’s subject is the student; so for this reason 学生 is the best choice because you are looking at the subject from his role in society not his relationship with the teacher. This is why no matter where the student goes he will still be called 学生. If the sentence’s subject were the teacher, then 学生 would indeed turn into 生徒 due to the relationship with the regard to the teacher (who is the subject of the sentence).

Let use a different example to explain what I mean:
男の子はお母さんと新しい自転車で公園に行きます。
A boy and his mother go to the park on their new bicycles.

お母さんは息子と新しい自転車で公園に行きます。
A mother and her son go to the park on their new bicycles.

Although it’s not a perfect example, the first sentence is referring to the topic (the boy) in a general sense and is not relating to his relationship with the other person in the sentence. Although it is okay to refer to him as 息子 or 子供 in Japanese, in English to say, “A son and his mother go to the park…” sounds odd because the word “son” has a specific relationship which sounds better when “mother” is mentioned first in this specific case. In the same way, “a pupil and his teacher go…” sounds a bit backward because the main focus of the sentence is really the student. Although this is really abstract, the main point I’m stressing here is that because the theme of the sentence (which is also the subject) is referred to in a general sense (regardless of who they are going with), 学生 is the better choice.


#10

Gurl, you just blew my mind. That improves my understanding of both words, THANK YOU TOO


#11

Neat. Thanks for asking, Deathhealth. I think I would have guessed that what Leebo and Lucas said was the case, but it would have been just that, a guess. Lucas and Leebo, thanks as always, for helping to clarify things that I should probably be trying to figure out on my own, so I can keep being lazy and riding your coattails.


#12

Compared to @Leebo, I hardly ever do much. To be honest, these questions really help me solidify my own knowledge in Japanese because I have to verify my own understanding is indeed correct in advance before I can feel confident to post a response. So I too thank you @Deathhealth for asking and giving me an opportunity to expand my knowledge.