If you translate it sounded like laughter into German, would it be more correct to say:

Es hörte sich wie Lachen an


Es hörte sich als Lachen an



The only correct way to say it is sich wie etwas anhören.

The phrase is analogous to es klingt wie ein Lachen whose usage can be found in dictionaries. I am soundly surprised that I didn’t find sich wie etwas anhören in the dictionaries I quickly checked.

Als usually implies something to be different from something else in some way, which is why in standard German comparatives are connected with als:

Es hört sich anders als ein Lachen an.

Wie often (but not as usually when compared to als) implies the similarity. However, especially in colloquial South German, wie is used where als might be more appropriate. In any case, your example is comparing similarities, so it should be wie.

Es hört sich wie Lachen an.

  • 4
    Contrast with Es hört sich an, als ob jemand lacht. – chirlu Sep 27 '15 at 2:01

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