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What is the difference between ‘anschauen’ and ‘ansehen’?

What is the difference between anschauen and ansehen?

Living in Germany, you would have definitely used the words ansehen multiple times. You would have also heard the word anschauen used around quite a lot. This begs the interesting question, “What is the difference between anschauen and ansehen?” What is the difference between the two words? When should I use anschauen and when should I use ansehen? In this blog post we will answer the question of the difference between the two!


Meaning of the word anschauen

Meaning: to look at sb reproachfully or to give the subject a reproachful look.
  • jemanden vorwurfsvoll anschauen.
  • jemanden lieb anschauen.

Meaning of the word ansehen

ansehen means to look at. The subject being looked at is seen in a more observing and personal sense and not like a glace or a look over the shoulder.
  • Ich sehe mir einen Film an. I watch a movie.


First difference between anschauen and ansehen

  • There is almost no difference in usage and in meaning between the two words anschauen and ansehen except geographically.
  • The word Anschauen is used quite heavily in Bavaria which is in the southern part of Germany (Bavarian, Alemannic)
  • The word Anschauen is also used in Austria and in Switzerland
  • It is also used quite commonly in literature,
  • Ansehen is however more standard across central and northern Germany and also in all types of media.

Usage difference is very specific. But there are exceptions of course as is the birthright  of German!!

  • If you look at the sentence “Nokola Tesla wird als der größte Physiker des 20. Jahrhunderts angesehen.”
  • The sentence translates as “Nokola Tesla is considered the greatest physicist of the 20th century”.
  • angehen here means “is considered to be”
  • With this meaning, one can not use anschauen.


anschauen vs ansehen: Verb and noun

  • As a verb, there is no difference between the two except geographical usage.
  • But if we use the words as a noun, Ansehen translates as Reputation while the word Anschauen has no meaning as a noun. 
  • The example of Nikola Tesla given above satisfies this explanation


Second difference between anschauen and ansehen

  • Interestingly there is one more difference between ansehen and anschauen other than the verb / noun mentioned above
  • Ansehen has a secondary meaning as “to be visible”. This is more in a concrete or a figurative sense, thus to be observable
  • Example:
    • Sie ist weit über 80, aber man sieht ihr ihr Alter nicht an.
    • Letztes Jahr ist seine Frau gestorben; man sieht ihm den Kummer an.
    • Du lügst doch! Das sehe ich dir an der Nasenspitze an!
  • These sentences can work only with ansehen and cannot work with anschauen,
  • This is because anschauen is not impersonal and always goes in the direction of being intentionally looking


If you read a lot of short stories in German with English translation you will learn more about this concept easily!

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