Would tell what is the difference in meaning between Musik hören and Musik anhören in the sense of listening to music to pass time? For example:

Ich höre in meiner Freizeit Musik.

Ich höre (mir) in meiner Freizeit Musik an.

I've seen videos on YouTube explaining the difference between the two words, but unfortunately they don't explain the difference between them in this particular context.

2 Answers 2


There's not really a difference between etwas hören and etwas anhören in this context. Both are okay and mean the same thing.

If you specify the dative object, which needs to be reflexive for anhören, this emphasizes the fact that you benefit from listening.

As the dative object tells who bears the result of the action on the accusative object. Usually, who benefits.

  • Could you clarify what you mean by that last comment about dative and accusative objects? "Mir" is dative here, but is it considered an "accusative object" just because it's reflexive? Also what about sentences that have no accusative object? Commented May 7, 2023 at 15:30
  • Mir is the dative object, and it is the person who benefits from that action anhören applied to the accusative object Musik. If there is no accusative object, it's implied in the action. For example, Ich helfe dir. has an implied Hilfe from which you benefit.
    – Janka
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 12:42

First, there are two Verben used, "hören" and "anhören". The difference in meaning is rather ephemeral and for most purposes they are identical as @Janka already said.

To explain their difference it is perhaps easier to switch to the activity of seeing instead of hearing because here English has (unlike with hearing) two different adequate words: "to see" and "to watch". "hören" is analogous to "to see" whereas "anhören" is analogous to "to watch".

Having said this:

Both sentences are worded very generally, so for both to be true it is not necessary that you do it all the time, just that it is a typical activity you are undertaking during your free time.

Ich höre in meiner Freizeit Musik.

will include you having i.e. a radio with music running in the background while doing something else. listening to the music is not necessarily your main or your sole activity.

Ich höre (mir) in meiner Freizeit Musik an.

This suggests more strongly that when you listen to certain music pieces this will be your main activity. This effect is even stronger when you include the "mir" and use "anhören" as a reflexives Verb (reflexive verb).

  • In my intuition, the last example sounds rather odd. I think "anhören" is preferred for an activity on a specific occasion, when you actively listen to music, paying attention to it. "Musik hören" is what you say when it is (a) not active / attentive (b) general, as a kind of activity
    – Alazon
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 9:45

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