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Can anschauen and ansehen both be used to say that you are looking at something? For example, "Ich schaue das Foto an" vs. "Ich sehe mir das Foto an"? I think I have seen these verbs used interchangeably but I'm not a native speaker so I don't know if there's some difference in meaning I may have missed.

Are they exactly the same?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The two verbs

ansehen

and

anschauen

are near-identical synonyms. They are, in fact, identical as to their denotations. People may disagree, however, as to the equivalence of their connotations. For example, when we hear or read anschauen we simultaneously hear or read a faint echo of the noun Anschauung in the back of our mind. There is Weltanschauung but not Weltansehen. Similarly, there is Ansehen (reputation) but not Anschauen (reputation).

Discussion of the question whether there can ever be wholly-equivalent synonyms can get very heated, so I'll end by saying that in my opinion, people sometimes do choose one of the verbs over the other, but based on a very subtle gut feeling and one that they usually would not be able to explicate if asked.

The "too long, didn't read":

Yes they are interchangeable and especially for you as a language learner this is something you need not worry about.

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2  
I'd like to add, that ansehen has one meaning that is not at all covered by "anschauen". Here is an example: "Man sieht ihr nicht an, wie alt sie ist"... "You can't tell her age by her looks" .... So ansehen+ non-reflexive dative = "tell by that persons look". –  Emanuel May 20 '13 at 10:20
    
awesome! that is a really helpful addition –  kokirii May 20 '13 at 22:55

Anschauen and Ansehen have an identical meaning. If you use anschauen or ansehen is mostly dependent on the region where you are.

For me anschauen is more directed to the object while ansehen is a bit more general.

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Yes the two verbs are synonyms which mean exactly the same. I can't think of an example in which one of the verbs would mean different things.

Perhaps the activity of watching a movie can be expressed better with anschauen instead of ansehen, but it's not a mistake to use ansehen either.

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Thank you for the responses. Is the reflexive dative necessary with ansehen? In other words, do I have to say "Ich sehe MIR das Foto an" or can I just say "Ich sehe das Foto an"? –  kokirii May 19 '13 at 16:44
1  
Reflexive usage is better for things like pictures, photos, films etc. But it's not grammatically wrong to say: "Ich sehe das Foto an." (though it could mean something like staring at a photo.) –  splattne May 19 '13 at 17:04
3  
That’s the same for anschauen and ansehen, by the way. –  chirlu May 19 '13 at 17:56

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