Listen and Hear

Posted on Posted in Grammar, Vocabulary

Listen and hear are both used to describe what we do with our ears, but what is the difference?
Have you ever sat in a class and heard what the teacher was saying, but five minutes later you couldn’t remember what she had said?

You were hearing, but not listening.  
We usually use the word ‘listen when someone is purposefully trying to hear what is happening or being said. When sounds just come to our ears, we hear them.

Some Examples:

heard voices in the kitchen so I went down to listen to the conversation.
Did you hear what the boss just said?  I wasn’t listening.
They heard a noise outside.
We listened to the announcements this morning.
He speaks too softly.  I can’t hear him.

You can’t usually replace ‘hear’ with ‘listen’ as they have different meanings.

‘Listen To’

Notice that when listen is followed by an object we use ‘listen to‘.

listened to the news this morning.
We listened to the orchestra last night.
Listen to me! I’m telling you the truth.

Listening and hearing are both important when learning another language. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just let yourself hear the sounds and absorb the rhythm of the language. But most of the time you need to do the hard work of really listening to what is being said.


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