The Difference between HEAR and LISTEN in English

"Hear" means that sounds come into your ears whether you want it or not, while "Listen" means that you consciously pay attention to what you hear...


HEAR(no effort)  – A sound/noise comes into your ear without you making an effort.

  1. You do not make conscious decision to hear.
  2. You physically experience the sense of sound.
  3. Sometimes the sound you hear is sudden or unexpected like a noise, an alarm or an explosion.

Examples:

  • Can you hear me?
  • Did you hear the thunder last night?
  • I didn’t hear what you said. Sorry
  • Could you speak louder, please? I couldn’t hear anything.
  • Can you hear the birds singing in the garden?
  • We heard a terrible noise when the cars crashed in front of our house.

LISTEN(no effort) - When you pay attention and try to listen to sounds

  1. You make decision to listen
  2. You deliberately pay attention to the sound.
  3. Listen+to+object(something)

Examples:

  • Are you listening to the radio last night?
  • My sister loves listening to music.
  • I tried to listen but I couldn’t hear anything.
  • Listen!  some fine jazz music is played in the neighbour’s flat.
  • Everybody listened carefully to the old man’s story.
  • You’ll get in trouble if you don’t listen to your teacher.

Compare:

You can hear somebody talking but you need to listen to them to understand what they are saying.

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The Difference between HEAR and LISTEN in English

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