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English Club : Learn English : Vocabulary : Confusing Words : Hear or Listen?

Hear or Listen?

Hear and listen are verbs that we use to talk about our sense of hearing - using our ears. But they have important differences in meaning.

Hear

We use hear to mean simply that sounds come into our ears. It may not be deliberate. As soon as we wake up and walk around, we hear things.

  • I heard a knock at the door.
  • I suddenly heard a loud noise.
  • Can you speak louder please? I can't hear you.

Listen (to)

When we listen, we try to hear. We pay attention and try to understand every sound.

  • Listen! Is someone crying?
  • Listen to this song. Can you understand the words?
  • I'm listening but I can't hear anything.

When we use listen with an object, we say listen + to + object, for example:
John is listening to the radio.

Hear or Listen (to) for radio, concerts, talks, lectures etc?
In general, we use hear for public performances and listen for non-public performances.
  • We went to hear the President's big speech last night.
  • I heard Madonna singing "Like A Virgin" at the concert.
  • Do you ever listen to the radio in your car?
  • Have you listened to that recording I sent you?

Hear or Listen Quiz >

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