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Sehen, schauen, and kucken

We have "to see," "to watch," and "to look" in English, but there are even more verbs in German, and the meanings are often prefix-dependent. In German, the three verbs/verb roots are sehen, schauen, and gucken / kucken. Gucken or (more commonplace) kucken is slang and is more popular in northern Germany, whereas schauen is slang in southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. To gain an understanding of how these verbs are used, it's best to look at various examples and see how added prefixes affect the meaning.

Below, you can see examples of these three verbs without any prefixes.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Die anderen Tiere sind im Winter leider nicht draußen zu sehen.

The other animals are unfortunately not to be seen outside in the winter.

Caption 20, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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Wo sehen Sie sich selbst in zehn Jahren?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Caption 55, Berufsleben - das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Hast du schon im Schrank geschaut? -Ja.

Have you already looked in the closet? -Yes.

Caption 4, Nicos Weg - Vorm Fahrradladen

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Ich bin runter und habe geguckt, war aber nichts.

I went down and looked, but there was nothing.

Caption 28, Rheinmain im Blick - Erdbeben in Südhessen

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Based on these examples, you might come to the conclusion that sehen is always translated as "to see" and schauen and kucken are translated as "to look." However, this is simply not the case. It is instead the prefixes that reliably determine the translations. As you see below, sich etwas anschauen and sich etwas ansehen both mean "to (take/have a) look at something," as does sich etwas ankucken.

 

Und einen Brauch wollen wir uns heute ansehen.

And we want to take a look at one of these customs today.

Caption 6, Eva erklärt - den Adventskalender

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Zuerst schauen wir uns einige Farben an.

First, we will look at some colors.

Caption 6, Eva erklärt - Farben

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Der Arzt schaut sich den Fuß jetzt erst mal an.

First, the doctor will take a look at your foot.

Caption 5, Nicos Weg - Beim Arzt

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Kuckt euch diese alte Kamera an.

Look at this old camera.

Caption 21, Drei Leute - beim Kofferpacken

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The phrases mal sehen, mal schauen, and mal kucken are essentially synonyms and can mean either "let's have a look at" or "let's see," depending on the context. 

 

Mal schauen, wie weit die Cannelloni sind.

Let's see how far along the cannelloni are.

Caption 41, Cannelloni - mit Jenny

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Mal kucken, was die anderen Jugendlichen hier im Jugendforum so treiben.

Let's see what the other young people here in the Youth Forum are up to.

Caption 10, Rheinman in Blick - Nachhaltigkeit

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Aussehen and ausschauen both refer to a person's appearance. Note: It is not possible to say auskucken in this context!

 

Du siehst gut aus.

You look good.

Caption 3, Weihnachtsmann gesucht - Bist du verliebt?

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Also, er hat mich gefragt: „Wie möchtest denn...

Well, he asked me: "How would you then like...

Herr Otto, wie möchtest denn ausschauen?“

Mr. Otto, how would you like to look then?"

Caption 9, Otto Waalkes - Friseur

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The verb "to watch" is most often translated as zusehen or zuschauen

 

Auf den Besuchertribünen kann jeder den Abgeordneten bei der Arbeit zusehen.

On the visitors' stands, everyone can watch the representatives at work.

Caption 23, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Vielen Dank fürs Zuschauen.

Thank you for watching.

Caption 27, Eva - zeigt uns Kleidungsstücke

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When it comes to watching television or a film, there are various expressions involving all three verbs.

 

Am Freitag sehe ich fern.

On Friday, I will watch television.

Caption 17, Nicos Weg - Am Sonntag koche ich

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Wir haben viel zusammen gekocht und Filme gekuckt.

We often cooked together and watched films.

Caption 32, Fine - sucht eine Wohnung

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Wenn du den Fernseher anmachst, was schaust du?

When you turn on the television, what do you watch?

Caption 36, Peyman Amin - Der Modelmacher

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Further Learning
There are many, many examples of these verbs (sehensich etwas ansehen, zusehen, aussehen, and the slang versions) used in context on Yabla German. When you notice an incongruity between the two languages or an exception, make sure to take note of it.

German Expressions of Enthusiasm

Since we devoted one lesson to expressions of frustration, let's look at how enthusiasm is expressed in German as well and take a look at some positive adjectives. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

„Ich muss sagen: überwältigend!“ -„Ausgezeichnet! Ausgezeichnet, finde ich!“

"I must say, overwhelming!" -"Brilliant! Brilliant, I think!"

Caption 54, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Des Kaisers neue Kleider

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Ausgezeichnet is also the participle of the verb auszeichnen, which means to award or distinguish.

 

Mit dem Architekturpreis Green Building wurden in Frankfurt kürzlich acht Gebäude ausgezeichnet.

Eight buildings in Frankfurt were recently awarded the Green Building architecture prize.

Caption 1, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen - Architekturpreis Green Building

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Many of these adjectives don't have a fixed translation ("outstanding," "awesome"), but are instead best translated with the positive adjective that fits in the context.

 

Es ist wirklich großartig, von Ihnen zu hören.

It is really great to hear from you.

Caption 20, Berufsleben - das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Das ist natürlich auch toll, wenn man 'ne gemeinsame Sache hat.

Of course, it's also great when you have something in common.

Caption 8, 2raumwohnung - Liebe mit Musik am Laufen halten

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Das klingt hervorragend.

That sounds amazing.

Caption 42, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Of course, the adjectives superfantastisch, and exzellent will sound quite familiar to anyone who speaks English. Also easy to recognize is the adjective wunderbar:

 

Und da ist dann der Balkon. -Ah, mit Balkon, wunderbar.

And there then is the balcony. -Ah, with a balcony, wonderful.

Caption 43, Fine - sucht eine Wohnung

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Another adjective you may come across, especially with younger Germans, is geil. Yes, this does indeed also have a meaning that is not appropriate in most conversations! But it is a common, albeit slang, term for "awesome" or "fantastic" as well.

 

Und wie war's? -Geil, wie immer. -Was speziell?

And how was it? -Awesome, as always. -What especially?

Caption 10, Abenteuer und Sport - Fallschirmspringen

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
All of these adjectives and more can be found on Yabla German. Pay attention to adjective declension any time they precede a noun. 

At the Table

This week, for our beginners, we'll go over the elements of a place setting at the table. First, let's review the different utensils (das Besteck):

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Ich brauche zum Essen noch eine Gabel.

In order to eat I need a fork.

Eine Gabel... und ein Messer.

A fork... and a knife.

Caption 21, Zu Besuch bei Jenny - In der Wohnung

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Nein, einen großen Löffel brauche ich nicht,

No, I don't need large spoon,

denn ich esse keine Suppe und auch keine Soße.

since I'm not eating any soup or any sauce either.

Caption 23, Zu Besuch bei Jenny - In der Wohnung

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Generally, all of these can be described as groß or klein. Just make sure you have the correct declension. The same is the case for der Teller – we can say ein großer Teller or ein kleiner Teller. 

 

... und dann hat man nicht nur was Buntes auf dem Teller,

... and then you not only have something colorful on the plate,

sondern es schmeckt hoffentlich auch den kleinen Feinschmeckern.

but, hopefully, it'll even taste good to the little gourmets.

Captions 47-48, Kochhaus Berlin - Kochen mit Kindern

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Here you can see the way different types of bowls are described. Generally, eine Schüssel will be a larger bowl, even a serving or mixing bowl, while eine Schale is smaller and intended for an individual. If it's very small, you can also say ein Schälchen.

 

Wir schütten den Teig in eine Schüssel oder in einen Suppenteller.

We'll pour the batter into a bowl or into a soup plate.

Caption 27, Apfelpfannkuchen - mit Alina und Sabine

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Dann gibt dir jemand 'ein Schälchen Vanille-Pudding,

Then someone gives you a small bowl of vanilla pudding,

dann freust du dich da drüber...

then you are happy about it...

Captions 22-23, Helge Schneider - Auf der Bühne geht's mir gut

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You probably already know the difference between eine Tasse and ein Glas, but this list wouldn't be complete without it. Both examples below remind us that when translating "a cup of" or "a glass of," the "of" is dropped in the German version:

 

Kommt mal mit. Wir machen jetzt mal eine Tasse Kaffee für mich.

Come along. We'll make a cup of coffee for me.

Caption 16, Jenny beim Frühstück - Teil 1

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Willst du erst mal ein Glas Wasser trinken? -Ja, gerne. Danke schön.

Do you first want to drink a glass of water? -Yes, gladly. Thank you.

Caption 11, Fine - sucht eine Wohnung

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
Review the gender for each of these words and look for how declensions are created in typical sentences on Yabla German. For more vocabulary, you can also take a look at this list

Das Perfekt with sein

The German present perfect tense is mostly used in cases where we would use the simple past tense in English, although sometimes it has the same meaning in both languages. You likely know that it is most often formed with the auxiliary verb haben and the past participle of the main verb:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Und wir haben über die Themen Iran und, äh, auch den Nahen Osten gesprochen.

And we spoke about the topic of Iran and, uh, also the Middle East.

Caption 58, Angela Merkel - Gemeinsame Pressekonferenz mit Barack Obama

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However, with many verbs that either express movement or a change of state, a conjugation of sein is used as the auxiliary verb rather than haben

 

Für zwei Wochen bin ich durchs Land gereist.

For two weeks, I traveled across the country.

Caption 20, Grete - eine Freiwillige in Israel

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Ich bin nach Berlin gekommen, um ein Praktikum zu machen am Theater.

I came to Berlin to do an internship at the theater.

Caption 21, Fine - sucht eine Wohnung

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Hier ist auch alles gut, aber da ist etwas Komisches passiert.

Everything is also good here, but something strange has happened.

Caption 44, Das Lügenbüro - Die Bewerbung

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Um dreizehn Uhr dreißig:

At one-thirty p.m.,

Die Beatles sind aufgewacht, etwas früher als zu Hause.

the Beatles woke up, somewhat earlier than at home.

Caption 11, Die Beatles - in Deutschland

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What is quite tricky is that some verbs can be used with either sein or haben depending on the context, and may take on different meanings. The second sentence below implies that the person didn't just fly in a plane as a passenger, but was at the controls themselves.

 

Wir sind zum Mond geflogen

We flew to the moon

Caption 2, Christina Stürmer - Seite an Seite

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Hat vieles selber gebaut, was er geflogen hat.

He built a lot of that which he flew himself.

Caption 54, Lokalhelden - Mini-Airplane

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning

Learn the definitions and past participles of the following verbs, which also take sein rather than haben in the present perfect: gehen, laufen, einschlafenrennen, joggen, wandern, klettern, fallensteigen, fahrenreiten, umziehen, fliehen, gleiten, springen, kriechen, aufstehen, sinken, schleichen, eintreten, schwimmenrutschen. Once you learn the past participles, search for them on Yabla German to see them used with the auxiliary verb sein in context.

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