1. The forums will be closed for a major forum upgrade for around 2-4 hours on Sunday, starting around noon US Eastern Time (GMT -4, 18:00 in most of Europe). Details
    Dismiss Notice

to see and to look

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Merpero, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. Merpero Senior Member

    English-United Kingdom
    Do Germans have a separate and different word for to see and to look?

    For example, in French, the main word for to see is voir, and the main word for to look at is regarder.

    What is the MAIN German word for TO SEE?
    What is the MAIN German word for TO LOOK?

    When I looked in the dictionary, I was a little confused. I have seen words like sehen, ansehen and schauen, but I'm not sure which one to use.

    For example, if I wanted to say something like: "I look at the dog" or "I see the stars in the sky"?

    I would be grateful if someone could give me some fairly simple example sentences, showing how the words I have asked for are used.

    Vielen Dank
  2. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In German there is "schauen" and "sehen" - but different from English (and French) both may mean the same and the difference is more one of style; also in some regions of the German speech community either "schauen" or "sehen" is used more frequently - so there's a regional distribution also.
    Then there is also "blicken".

    And then there are of course many words for "see" and "look" formed with prefixes: "ansehen - anschauen, sich umsehen - sich umschauen" etc. - those pairs do not always mean the same.

    I fear if we want to discuss this topic thoroughly we should limit it to a few very clearly defined meanings of "look" and "see" - else this thread might turn out to become very messy. :)
    (The two you've given won't do really - if you look at the dog you would rather use "betrachte" in standard language, so yet another one; the same also could be used for the stars. But in both cases in colloquial language still other verbs might be used.)
  3. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Hmm.. well there are a couple problems. First off, there are like three (or more depending on context or on regional differences) main verbs meaning "to see": sehen (probably the most normal, standard word), shauen (my dictionary gives this as "dialectal" but I hear it all the time), and gucken (this is colloquial and sometimes considered bad German). So you've basically got three to choose from, and if you had to pick a "MAIN" one, I guess it'd be "sehen," but you hear and see all three.

    Now in German to say "look at" you simply tack on "an" to one of these three verbs: ansehen, anshauen, angucken. It works basically like English "look at" (i.e. "at" = "an") apart from German word order and the fact that German uses an indirect pronoun ("sich [dative] etwas ansehen"). So:

    I look at the dog = Ich sehe/schaue/gucke mir den Hund an. <-- sounds funny though for some reason...
    I see the stars in the sky = Ich sehe/schaue/gucke die Sterne im Himmel.

    Another problem, however, is that there's not always a 1-to-1 correspondence, i.e. sometimes we say "look at" in English where they say "sehen," and sometimes we say "see" in English where they say "ansehen" (or something completely different) in German.

    Edit: oops! Didn't see you there, sokol. :)
  4. Robocop Senior Member

    Central Switzerland
    (Swiss) German
    This is no easy matter...
    - I look at the dog = Ich sehe / schaue / (gucke) den Hand an.
    - I take a (searching) look at the dog. = Ich sehe / schaue / (gucke) mir den Hund an. (usually for some sort of examination)
  5. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Brian, concerning 'schauen' being dialectal - rest assured that you dictionary is wrong. :)
    It is true that 'schauen' is used mostly (or exclusively?) in the south (Switzerland, Austria, Southern Germany); but it is nevertheless standard language.

    'Gucken' however is not exactly standard language (but still colloquial according to Deutsches Universalwörterbuch 2003) though this might change as it is used frequently (even on TV). Further I'd say that 'gucken' is not the basic word for to see.

    Basic meaning of both 'to see' and 'to look' would translate like this; the verbs which do not work in this contexts are given in parenthesis:
    - I see you. - Ich sehe dich. - (*schauen *gucken)
    - See? (As in: I've told you, now do you see?) - Siehst du? (*schauen *gucken)
    - I look at you. - Ich schau dich an. ~ Ich sehe dich an. (*gucken)
    - Look! - Schau mal! ~ Sieh mal! ~ Guck mal!
    'Schauen' - as already said - has a touch of southerners' speech. 'Guck mal' on the other hand has a touch of northerners' speech (while in other idioms 'gucken' may not be specific northern speech; this is a difficult subject really).
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  6. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yeah living in Switzerland I heard a lot of "schauen" except in the cases you mention where you can't use "schauen" ("Siehst du?" etc.). I don't think I ever heard "gucken," though maybe that's a vast overstatement. :D

    As for my dictionary saying dial. for "schauen," that's really no good. :(
  7. Merpero Senior Member

    English-United Kingdom
    Wow! Thank you so much everyone for your in-depth yet also understandable explanations, with helpful examples.

    I'm going to print them all, and hopefully, that will help me to progress another few steps in my understanding of German.

    I'd like to have written this reply in German, but I must rush to bed, as I have to get my son up early for college tomorrow.
  8. anny64 Member

    hi. I would like to try to give you my opinion as well. Since I'm Italian, I'd like to hear your replay to my position.
    I have a feeling of the two different meanings of see and look as like sehen and zusehen. If you than choose sehen, schauen, gucken, blicken, is the difference regional, of use, of habit and so on.
    I'd say for I see the sky: Ich sehe den Himmel, but
    I look at the dog: Ich sehen dem Hund zu.
    trifft es zu?
    thank you in advance
  9. Robocop Senior Member

    Central Switzerland
    (Swiss) German
    - see: sehen (vedere) [Sieh mal hier! Ich sehe meine Mutter. Ich sehe, worauf du hinaus willst. Lass mal sehen.]
    - look: schauen, hinsehen (guardare) [Schau mal hier! Ich konnte nicht mehr hinsehen.]
    - look at: anschauen, ansehen [Ich schaue/sehe das Bild an. Ich sehe/schaue meine Mutter an. Ich habe mir deinen Entwurf angeschaut/angesehen.]
    - watch: zuschauen, zusehen [Willst du zusehen/zuschauen? Ich sehe/schaue den Kindern beim Spielen zu. Zuschauen/zusehen macht Spass.]
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  10. anny64 Member

    ok. but than "regarder" is neighter to couple with look at.
    I understand your point, Robocop, and hope our Merpero is able to achieve the right feeling about the meanings of these words.
    by everybody
  11. Frederika Member

    schauen: süddt. österr. /im übrigen Sprachgebiet meist gehoben
    gucken: umg.

    Das trifft es meines Erachtens sehr gut. "Schauen" wird in Norddeutschland nicht als normal empfunden, bestenfalls als gehoben, schlimmstenfalls als dialektal, je nach sonstiger Aussprache und Wortwahl des Sprechenden. "Gucken" wird in Norddeutschland extrem oft verwendet, aber ist für die Schriftsprache weniger geeignet und wohl unumstritten umgangssprachlich.

    (Man sollte hier weder dialektal noch umgangssprachlich allzu negativ empfinden -- aber so ist es halt.)

    to look/ to see/ to watch kann nicht einheitlich übersetzt werden; jeder Einzelfall muss betrachtet werden, da viele stehende Wendungen existieren.

Share This Page