Wir hören uns Musik an.

English Translation

We listen to music.

Hello all,

The dictionary lists both anhören and sich etw. anhören as to listen to.

Would Wir hören Musik an also be correct here and if so, is one version more common than the other?

Yes, it would also be correct.

I’d say there is no noteworthy difference, and they’re roughly equally common.

I tried to come up with a difference, but every time I thought I found a rule, I could also think of an exception.

The only difference I think there is, is when you include the word “mit”, as in “etw. mit anhören”.

Imagine the fellow restaurant guests at the neighboring table are talking a little too loudly, or the neighbors are having a loud argument. You can’t help but overhear them. The word “mit” reflects the fact that the sound is not produced for you specifically. The other guests or neighbors overhear the sound too. You wouldn’t use “sich”, “mir”, etc. in such a situation.

Example: “Ich konnte das Gespräch der Nachbarn mit anhören.” (Notice there’s no mir.)

If you omit the word “mit” to emphasize the effect on you (for example, if you’re complaining to a friend), I think there is no practical difference between

  • “Ich musste mir gestern den ganzen Tag den Streit der Nachbarn anhören.”
  • “Ich musste gestern den ganzen Tag den Streit der Nachbarn anhören.”

Thanks for the in-depth reply @davidculley, much appreciated!

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