In conversation with 2 native German speakers I wanted to say:

The very sight of him rattled me.

So I said:

Der bloße Anblick von ihm erschreckte mich.

Whereupon they called that sentence Umgangssprache and corrected it with:

Sein bloßer Anblick erschreckte mich.

Their correction would seem to me to mean, "His very sight rattled me." And while this might be English that some use, I believe it improper in that it is not his sight but my sight of him that is being spoken about. So I would like to understand why Germans finds this superior to my first rendition. If anything I would think this would be more correct:

Mein bloßer Anblick von ihm erschreckte mich.

  • 1
    You seem to assume that German Anblick and English sight have exactly the same meaning, but this is not the case.
    – RHa
    Sep 2, 2021 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


English "sight" means "seeing something". It is a process. This is "Blick" in German.

The eagle has the prey in sight.
Der Adler hat die Beute im Blick.

But German "Anblick" is not the process of seeing something. It is the thing that is seen. So, "Sein Anblick" does not mean "what he sees" but "what he looks like". There is no English word for this. I think the closest existing English word is appearance, another option, but even less close is picture.

Sein bloßer Anblick erschreckte mich.
His mere appearance frightened me.

But English "appearance" describes not only how a person looks like, but also how they behave, how they move, the way of speaking, their smell etc. German Anblick means only that part of appearance, that can be captured in a picture.

In German there also is a word for "appearance", it is "Erscheinung".

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