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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.

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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.

Things, Stuff, Matters, and Topics

Whether we are referring to our stuff on a nearby chair or a serious matter that needs to be discussed, there are several words in German that can be helpful. Most of them can be used in a number of contexts, but there are a few things to be aware of.

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Sachen is a very versatile word, and can be used to refer to physical items but also matters and topics. Of course, das Thema is a more common word for "the topic."

 

Und ja, ich räume meine Sachen nicht immer sofort weg.

And yes, I don't always clean up my stuff away right away.

Caption 29, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme

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Hier gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen für die Familie und für die Kinder zu sehen.

Here there are many different things for the family and for the children to see.

Caption 8, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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Fazit: In Sachen Hamburger hat die Hauptstadt auf jeden Fall mehr zu bieten.

Conclusion: When it comes to hamburgers, the capital city definitely has more to offer.

Caption 25, Berlin - Die beste Auswahl an Hamburgern

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Der Gegenstand is used to refer to a physical object or item, but also a topic of conversation or debate. And, of course, there is also the word das Objekt. In shopping, der Artikel ("the item") and die Ware are more likely to be used.

 

Auch hier handelt es sich um einen runden Gegenstand.

Also here it is about a round object.

Caption 34, Eva zeigt uns - Formen

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Slang terms for "stuff" or "odds and ends" are der Kram and das Zeug.

 

So viele Spinnweben und so viel Kram

So many cobwebs and so much stuff

Caption 11, Silbermond - Leichtes Gepäck

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Diese Box wird für Bücher, dieser Karton wird für das Zeug aus der Küche sein.

This box will be for books, this carton will be for stuff from the kitchen.

Caption 14, Drei Leute - beim Kofferpacken

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The word das Ding is, of course, also commonly used, and not just for objects.

 

Wir testen die Dinger jetzt schon seit Monaten.

We've been testing the things for months already.

Caption 30, Die Stunde der Offiziere - Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Ich habe entschieden, die Dinge selbst in die Hände [sic, Hand] zu nehmen.

I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

Caption 6, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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The plural forms die Dinger and die Dinge are both used. Generally, die Dinger refers to multiple things of the same kind, whereas die Dinge refers to multiple things of different kinds. 

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Further Learning
Das Thema, die Sache, das Objekt, der Artikel, die Ware, der Gegenstand, der Kram, das Zeug, and das Ding: Yabla German has many examples of all of these words, as they are commonly used. Go through them and make sure you know which are only used for non-physical ideas, topics, and matters, which are exclusively for physical objects, and which are applicable in both contexts. Making a venn diagram may be a good strategy!

Spannend, entspannt, gespannt, and verspannt

If you look carefully at the words gespannt and entspannt in the sentence below, you'll notice that gespannt is a participle (of spannen), whereas entspannt is an adverb. 

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Dann werden die Pferde vor die Kutsche gespannt und man kann ganz entspannt durch Dahlem fahren.

Then the horses are hitched up in front of the coach and one can ride very leisurely through Dahlem.

Captions 39-40, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem - Part 1

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However, you have probably also seen gespannt used as an adjective, and also perhaps come across spannend or verspannt. Let's take a look at some examples and clarify the meanings of all of these words. 

 

Above, entspannt is used as an adverb to mean "leisurely" or "in a relaxed way." As an adjective it means "relaxed," or you might see it as the verb entspannen, which means — you guessed it — "to relax." 

 

Aber es entspannt mich. -O ja.

But it relaxes me. -Oh yes.

Caption 15, Kolkhorst - Konzert

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Und das ist sehr, sehr, sehr entspannt im Gegensatz zu München, Hamburg, Berlin.

And that's very, very, very relaxed in contrast to Munich, Hamburg, Berlin.

Caption 19, Fernsehmoderatorin - Sonya Kraus

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Spannend is an adjective used to describe something that is "exciting," "interesting," or "intriguing."

 

Auf der Berlinale zu laufen ist schon wahnsinnig spannend.

Attending the Berlinale, indeed, is insanely exciting.

Caption 7, Berlinale - Schauspieler Jürgen Vogel

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Ich finde es sehr spannend, wie viele Facetten so ein Film hat

I find it very exciting how many facets a film like this has.

Caption 48, Filmtrailer - Der kleine Rabe Socke

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Be aware: spannend almost never describes people. It means "exciting" and NOT "excited," which is the meaning of the adjective gespannt. 

 

Ich bin mal gespannt, wie es klappt. Ich hoffe, es gefällt euch.

I am excited to see how it will go. I hope you like it.

Caption 41, Eva Croissant - Interview - Part 2

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Two other words you should know are angespannt and verspannt. They both translate as "tense" in a more negative sense, and often refer to the body rather than the mind.

 

Bauch ist leicht angespannt. Wenn wir hochkommen: ausatmen...

The belly is slightly tensed. When we come up, breathe out...

Caption 34, Workout mit Erik - Übungen für Arme, Beine, Po, Rücken

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Genau da, wo er so verspannt ist, da muss er ziehen.

exactly where it is so tense, it has to stretch there.

Caption 32, Nackenschmerzen, steifer Nacken, steifer Hals - Übungen gegen Nackenverspannungen

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Further Learning

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Make sure that you understand all related words and can identify what part of speech they occupy in sentences using context clues. This includes the verbs spannensich entspannen(sich) verspannen, and anspannen. There are many examples available on Yabla German.

Im Garten

Die Pflanzen blühen jetzt.

The plants are blooming now.

Caption 12, Jahreszeiten - Der Sommer

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After an extremely cold March, Germany experienced temperatures up to 73° F / 23° C this last week. It seems that temperatures below freezing will not return for a while, so it's time for many people to get outside and work in the garden. 

 

Sein Leben sind die Pflanzen, die er liebevoll rund um sein Häuschen hegt, und das Saatgut, das er daraus gewinnt.

His life consists of the plants that he lovingly tends around his little house and the seeds that he gets from them.

Captions 5-6, Ökobauer - Allein im Wald

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Nitrat ist klassischer Pflanzendünger.

Nitrate is a traditional plant fertilizer.

Caption 26, Bundesregierung - Der Tomatenfisch

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Piggeldy wollte wissen, was Unkraut ist.

Piggeldy wanted to know what a weed is.

Caption 1, Piggeldy und Frederick - Unkraut

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People who live in the city can start planting flowers and herbs on their window sills and on their balconies. 

 

Ich habe meine Balkonkästen mit dieser Erde gefüllt.

I filled my balcony planters with this soil.

Caption 30, Mülltrennung - in Heidelberg

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Of course, those in the agriculture business (die Landwirtschaft) have already been at work for a while, since their planting and harvesting are hardly limited to the warm months

 

Und hier sehen wir, wie auf der Domäne Dahlem Landwirtschaft betrieben wird.

And here we see how farming is done at the Domain Dahlem.

Caption 23, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem - Part 1

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Der kleine, freche Rabe Socke flitzt mit seinem Rennwagen durch den hessischen Wald, statt wie seine Freunde bei der Ernte zu helfen.

The little, impertinent raven Socke flies with his race car through the Hessian forest instead of helping with the harvest like his friends.

Captions 2-3, Filmtrailer - Der kleine Rabe Socke

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Further Learning
Search for more vocabulary on Yabla German, or refer to websites such as this one for basic gardening terms, or this thorough list of words related to agriculture.

Wessen, dessen, deren, and denen

One topic that tends to intimidate students learning German is the use of these four words: Wessendessenderen, and denen. They are indeed tricky, but they make it possible to construct elegant sentences and are therefore very good to get acquainted with!

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Wessendessen, and deren can all be translated as "whose." However, unlike "whose" they are each only correct in certain situations. Wessen is related to wer, wen, and wem, i.e. it is asking "who?," but it is possessive. It is used when the "who" of the sentence is not known and could therefore be any gender:

 

Sach ma [Sag mal], wessen Freundin bist du eigentlich?

Tell me, whose friend are you actually?

Caption 45, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche - Part 1

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Es dachte auch nicht darüber nach, wessen Haferbrei das war.

She also didn't think about whose oat porridge it was.

Caption 19, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären

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Dessen is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is masculine or neuter:

 

Acht Minuten später schickt der Paulianer geschickt Julian Schieber, dessen Schuss aber knapp vorbeigeht.

Eight minutes later the "Paulianer" [someone from St. Pauli] skillfully sends Julian Schieber whose shot, however, just misses.

Captions 10-11, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft - Part 2

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Deren is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is feminine or plural:

 

Seine königliche Hoheit, der Prinz, wird die Frau heiraten, deren Fuß in diesen Glasschuh passt.

His Royal Highness, the Prince, will marry the woman whose foot fits into this glass slipper.

Captions 83-84, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Aschenputtel

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Wessendessen, and deren are all genitive relative pronouns. The relative pronoun denen, however, is used for relative clauses involving a plural noun in the dative case, with prepositions such as mitauf, nach, or bei.

 

Es macht einfach Spaß, mit denen Zeit zu verbringen.

It is simply fun to spend time with them.

Caption 36, Curly Horses - Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker

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Und hier sehen wir zwei alte Kutschen, auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.
And here we see two old coaches, upon which you can take coach rides together with your family in the summer.
Caption 38, Berlin: Domäne Dahlem

Und hier sehen wir zwei alte Kutschen, auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.

And here we see two old coaches, upon which you can take coach rides together with you family in the summer.

Captions 37-38, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem - Part 1

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Further Learning
Searching for any of these words on Yabla German will bring up a lot of examples that can help you solidify your understanding of the topic. You can additionally watch our videos featuring German teacher Barbara and her students working on relative clauses, starting with this one

"For" is not always "für"

The German accusative preposition für is often translated to the English preposition "for":

 

Hier gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen für die Familie und für die Kinder zu sehen.

Here there are many different things for the family and for the children to see.

Caption 8, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

However, the English preposition "for" may also be translated to German as aus:

 

Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wollte Pandora im Haus bleiben.

But for some reason Pandora wanted to stay in the house.

Captions 33-34, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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Or as zum:

 

Fast jedes Ei, das zum Verkauf in Supermärkten gedacht ist, muss mit einem Zahlencode gekennzeichnet sein. [Kennzeichnung von Hühnereiern]

Almost every egg that is intended for sale in supermarkets must be marked with a number code. [Identification of chicken eggs]

Captions 9-10, Bioeier - Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

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Or as seit:

 

Und seit wie lange schon? -Seit sechzehn Jahren.

And for how long already? -For sixteen years.

Caption 6, Frisbee - Karlsruher Weihnachtsturnier

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Remember too that foreign words in general may be translated differently according to context. Just because "for" translates to seit in the above example does not mean that seit always translates back to "for":

 

Aber seit ich in Berlin lebe, arbeite ich als Kellnerin und Barista in Cafés.

But since I've lived in Berlin, I've worked as a waitress and barista in cafés.

Caption 16, Berlin - Judith und die „Brezel Bar“

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further Learning
Search on Yabla German for the English word "for" to see examples of how this preposition can be translated to German in different contexts.


 

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