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You should look up that word in the dictionary.

What is the common way to say this in German?

Du sollst das Wort im Wörterbuch nachschlagen.

Which verbs are acceptable? I'm thinking of nachschlagen, nachsehen, nachgucken. Would "anschauen" work?

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I thought that'd be "nachschauen": "Du sollst das Wort im Wörterbuch nachschauen". – karoshi May 14 '14 at 14:24
Any of these words is appropriate. – Em1 May 14 '14 at 14:39
@Ern1, no, only "nachschlagen". – nalply May 14 '14 at 19:37
Es gibt sehr viele mögliche Formen. Wenn Du einen Verdacht hast, etwa "prüfen, kontrollieren, verifizieren", sonst "finden, herausfinden, untersuchen, eruieren". Anschauen jedoch nicht. :) – user unknown May 15 '14 at 11:30
up vote 8 down vote accepted

You first set of suggestions is correct and only missing karoshi's addition of nachschauen.

Ordered by register from high to low:

nachschlagen, nachschauen, nachsehen, nachgucken

anschauen is not correct. It would mean, to look at the word as it is printed on that very sheet of paper or at the blackboard or whereever.

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I would use "nachschlagen". "Nachsehen", I would more think of not counting an error against someone or in the sense of "extenuating circumstances", e.g. in "he is still a child". "Nachgucken" has for me the connotation of look after a beautiful young woman that just passed past me. "Anschauen" is way off and can not be used if you want to say that you look at something like a nice painting.

To summarize, you could probably use the first three words, but the nachschlagen would be the best to use and nachgucken the worst (I consider the use of "gucken" as unprofessional). Anschauen is not an option.

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Let me summarize the meaning of each of the proposed words as I feel them as a native speaker:

  • nachschlagen is the correct way for looking up a word in a dictionary.
  • nachschauen has a broader meaning than nachschlagen, it also could mean inspect.
  • nachsehen has two meanings, one like nachschauen; the other to shrug something bad off, if there are special circumstances excusing it.
  • nachgucken is a bit colloquial for looking at something in a supervising way.
  • anschauen is just simply look at something or somebody.
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