Why is this reflexive? In other words, why is "sich" needed here? Could we have "Die Katze sieht den Fisch an"?
I've finally found an answer. I had to take a closer look at and contemplate it. And bazinga, that's the answer. To see, sehen, is hardly more than visual perception. 'sich etwas ansehen' is to look at or to watch something. And the next stage is to observe something, etwas betrachten. Siehst du den Fisch? Schau ihn dir an - Do you see the fish? Take a look at it. Anschauen and ansehen are mostly interchangable. Most important: The example says 'ansehen', which needs 'sich' contrary to 'sehen'. Without sich, it might work, too, but has a different meaning, as far as I'm aware and is then interchangable with betrachten: regard or consider x as y.
Thanks. Your contribution is invaluable. Just a question on your imperative there: "Shau ihn dir an"... as far as I know the du is usually not mentioned but implied but you use dir? Shouldn't it be: Shau (du) ihn an
sich (Dativ!) etwas anschauen - to have a look at smth;
sich (Dativ!) etwas anhören - to listen to smth
Thank you. Ah, that is an interesting nuance, for which a cat watching a fish (rapt attention?) seems a good example. So, if I understand correctly, "ansehen" and be used without "sich" (or other reflexive pronoun)--is that right? but it then has a different meaning
I find the cat particularly fitting, since any given translation can be applied: The cat sees the fish. It's watching the fish, examining the fish's scales, since the cat considers the fish a delicious dinner. – Die Katze sieht den Fisch. Sie sieht ihn an, betrachted die Schuppen des Fisches genau, da sie ihn als leckeres Abendessen ansieht.
Yes, exactly. Sich etwas ansehen/anschauen = to watch orlook at something. Etwas ansehen = regard or consider something as something.
Perfect! The cat and its relationship to that fish, as you've described it here, have just become a critical learning tool for me. Thanks for another terrific explanation.