German Lessons


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.


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, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: 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, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: 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... Herr Otto, wie möchtest denn ausschauen?“

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

The Preposition "to" in German: Part 5 — zu

This week, we will conclude our five-part series on how to express movement from one place to another in German — in other words, translations of the preposition "to." We have looked at instances in which nach, in, an, and auf are used for this purpose, and now it's time for the preposition zu


There are a few things to know about the preposition zu. First of all, it is always followed by the dative, even when used to express movement! This means you will often see zum, which is a combination of zu + dem for when a masculine or neuter object follows, and zur, which combines zu + der for a female object (again, it is always dative). 


Kuckt mal, jetzt gehen wir mal zur Mauer und kucken uns die mal an.

Look, now let's go to the Wall and take a look at it.

Caption 7, 25 Jahre Mauerfall - Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich

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Am nächsten Tag geht er zur Schule.

The next day, he goes to school.

Caption 16, Sabine erzählt Witze - Ein Satz

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Und wer von der Politik genug gesehen hat,

And anyone who has seen enough of politics

kann einfach weiterflanieren,

can just continue strolling,

zum Beispiel zurück zum Potsdamer Platz.

for example, back to Potsdamer Platz.

Captions 38-39, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Zu is the most widely used preposition to express "to" and it can often (but not always) substitute for in, an, and auf. We can say Ich gehe ins Fitnessstudio, but also Ich gehe zum Fitnessstudio. Both Ich gehe auf den Markt and Ich gehe zum Markt are correct. However, sometimes only zu is correct and sometimes it can't be used at all. Ich fahre ins Restaurant doesn't sound right because you aren't literally going to drive your car into the restaurant. With the verb fahren it's better to use zum Restaurant.


There is an instance in which zu is used exclusively and you have likely already come across it. You may know that zu Hause sein means "to be at home" and nach Hause gehen is "to go home." But when we talk about visiting someone at their home, we always use zu and it is actually very simple. 


Ich gehe um elf zu Lisa.

I'm going to Lisa's at eleven.

Caption 16, Nicos Weg - A2 Folge 5: Geld ist für mich…

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Aber jetzt gehen wir erst mal zu deiner Tante.

But first let's go to your aunt's now.

Caption 22, Nicos Weg - A1 Folge 23: Ich habe kein…

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Further Learning
Re-read the other parts of this series of lessons linked in the first paragraph. You can keep a running list of how you see the preposition "to" translated on Yabla German, or make a list of places and try to say "I'm going to ____" for each one in German. Here are some sentences you can translate to get started: "I'm going to the park," "I'm going to the restaurant," "I'm driving to the beach," "I'm taking the train to Munich," "I'm going to Ana's house," "I'm getting into the car," "I'm going to the market," "I'm going home." Consider: which of these can also be said in German using zu?

French Words Used in German, Part 1

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. You may wonder why it is helpful to know that some German words originally came from the French—in fact, an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, and very often the French words found in German are the same or very similar to the words found in English that originated from France. If you learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is even a fair chance that these words are used in German. All the better if you happen to speak some French already!


Let's take a look today at some of the more commonly used German words with a French origin that have obvious French word endings such as -ment, -ion, or -age.


Sie kann direkt hinüberblicken zum Parlament.

She can look directly across at the parliament.

Caption 33, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Here das Parlament is spelled slightly differently from the French parlement and English "parliament."


Für mich hat's unheimlich viel mit der Emotion zu tun.​

For me, it has an awful lot to do with the emotion.

Caption 8, Astrid North - Solo-Debüt

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The German die Emotion is capitalized as a noun, and except for the accent in the French émotion, is written otherwise the same in all three languages. Notice the noun das Debüt in the title of the above video? That too is based on the French début, which is, of course, "debut" in English. 


Es war Ihre Verantwortung, diese Information zu versenden.

It was your responsibility to send this information.

Caption 40, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 1

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Die Information is the same in all three languages, but is capitalized as a German noun. 


Genau, ähm, das war so eine Illusion.

Exactly, that was such an illusion.

Caption 74, Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier - Part 1

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Die Illusion is also the same in all three languages but capitalized in German.


Mein Rücken, der braucht erst mal eine ordentliche Massage.

My back, first of all, it needs a thorough massage.

Caption 60, Selbst versucht - Gepäckabfertigung bei Fraport

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Die Massage is the same noun in all three languages, though in German the verb is massieren.


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. Next week we will discuss some more German words that originated from the French and have similar English equivalents.

An Experience or Life Experience?

For this week's lesson, we will look at the nouns das Erlebnis and die Erfahrung, and the related verbs erleben and erfahren


Consider the three examples below:


Das ist einfach das beste Erlebnis, das man als Künstler haben kann.

That is simply the best experience that you can have as an artist.

Caption 17, Helge Schneider - Auf der Bühne geht's mir gut

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Also, das war eigentlich eine sehr tolle Erfahrung.

Well, that was actually a really great experience.

Caption 21, Eva Croissant - Interview - Part 2

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Ich bin selbst Mutter von zwei wundervollen Kinder [sic, Kindern] und spreche aus eigener Erfahrung.

I myself am the mother of two wonderful children and speak from my own experience.

Captions 5-6, Cettina interviewt - Mütter

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In English, the word "experience" has a few definitions. In the first two sentences, the speaker is referring to a particular instance of encountering or undergoing something. In the third sentence, they are referring to the knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what they have observed, encountered, or undergone. In German, it is possible to use both das Erlebnis and die Erfahrung to describe this first kind of "experience." However, when we are talking about life experience, only die Erfahrung is appropriate in German. 


The verbs erleben and erfahren similarly can both indicate the process of experiencing something:


Ein Ort lebendiger Demokratie soll es werden, ein Haus für jeden, der Politik hautnah erleben will.

It should become a place of living democracy, a building for everyone who wants to experience politics next to their skin [idiom, up close].

Captions 16-17, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Ich denk', jeder muss für sich selber wissen, wo er hinfährt und wie er da ist und welche Länder und was er dort erfahren will.

I think everyone has to know for himself where he's heading and how he is there and which countries and what he wants to experience there.

Captions 41-42, Anna - Am Strand in Mexiko

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However, erfahren is also often used to express learning of or finding out about something new:


Wir haben nichts gefilmt. -Niemand wird davon erfahren.

We didn't film anything. -Nobody will find out about it.

Caption 30, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche - Part 4

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Further Learning
Conjugate erfahren and erleben and search for the various conjugations (erfahre, erfährst, etc.) on Yabla German to find more examples of the verbs used in context. Try to guess what the words das Erlebnisbad, das Erlebnisgeschenk, der Erlebnispark, erlebnisreich, and die Erlebniswelt mean now that you have an understanding of the word Erlebnis. 

Freedom of Choice

If you are fortunate enough to live in a constitutional democracy, I'd like to remind those of you who are eligible voters to be sure and make your voices heard. If you are too young to vote, please encourage your friends and family to make their votes count! Here are some examples of references to democracy in Yabla videos.



In einer Demokratie ist eine Funktion von regelmäßigen Wahlen... nach dem Willen der Wählermehrheit den Wechsel der Regierung zu ermöglichen.

In a democracy a function of regular elections is... to allow the change of the government according to the will of the majority of voters.

Captions 10-11, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest

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Weil es geht hier um Freiheit und Demokratie [weil es hier um Freiheit und Demokratie geht], die tagtäglich gefährdet ist [sic, sind], und wir müssen dafür kämpfen, dass Freiheit und Demokratie uns erhalten bleiben.

Because it is about freedom and democracy here, which are in danger on a daily basis, and we have to fight to ensure that freedom and democracy are preserved for us.

Captions 17-19, 25 Jahre Wiedervereinigung - Ampelmännchen wird Einheitsmännchen

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Es hat uns über ein halbes Jahrhundert Frieden, Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit, Menschenrechte und Demokratie gebracht.

It has brought us more than a half century of peace, freedom, justice, human rights and democracy.

Captions 15-16, Angela Merkel - Neujahrsansprache - Part 1

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Ein Ort lebendiger Demokratie soll es werden, ein Haus für jeden, der Politik hautnah erleben will.

It should become a place of living democracy, a building for everyone who wants to experience politics next to their skin [idiom, up close].

Captions 16-17, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Was ist kein Merkmal unserer Demokratie? Pressezensur.

What is not a characteristic of our democracy? Censorship of the press.

Captions 3-4, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 3

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Warum gibt es in einer Demokratie mehr als eine Partei? [Wahlen] Weil dadurch die unterschiedlichen Meinungen der Bürger und Bürgerinnen vertreten werden.

Why is there more than one party in a democracy? [Elections] Because the various opinions of the citizens [male] and citizens [female] are thus represented.

Captions 18-19, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 3

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Ja, das ist ein  krasser Einschnitt in unsere Demokratie, Marktdiktatur kann entstehen, ganz viele Sachen, die einfach sehr negativ sind für uns.

Yes, this is a crass break in our democracy, a market dictatorship can arise, quite a lot of things that are just very negative for us.

Captions 10-11, Deutsche-Welle-Nachrichten - Massenprotest gegen TTIP

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Further Learning
Watch the above videos in their entirety on Yabla German and learn more German words related to politics. And don't forget to vote in the elections tomorrow and to remind your friends and family to do so too!

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