Listen vs. Hear: What’s the difference?

Listen and hear are two verbs commonly confused by English students. Many times, we use both words in the same conversation. It’s important to know what the difference is.

Look at this example:

A: Hi! Can you hear me? What are you listening to?

B: I’m listening to Hotel California by The Eagles. Have you ever heard of it?

A: Yes, I love the lyrics! The first time I heard it was when I was driving through California… on a dark, desert highway!

Listen To

When to use LISTEN TO

Listen is related to your ear AND your brain.

When you are actively giving attention to music, a speaker, or a sound, use listen.

Use BE + listening to when the action is happening NOW.

Listen is almost always followed by TO + OBJECT.


Pronunciation

Listen. Listened. Listening. I listen to music every day. I listened to music yesterday. I’m listening to music right now.

  • The pronunciation in the present and past is almost the same.
  • The ‘t’ in listen is not pronounced.

I listen to music in the car on long trips.

Thank you for listening to my music for 3 hours!

I don’t listen to country music that much.

Hear

When to use HEAR

  • Hear is related to your ear
  • Use hear for sounds, noises, or volume. (What did you say? I can’t hear you!)
  • Hear is also used when talking about experiences. (Have you heard this song? I’ve never heard of that artist.)

Pronunciation

Hear. Heard. Heard. Did you hear that new song? Yes. I heard it yesterday. Have you ever heard of The Eagles?

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading and listening to this lesson. If you’ve been listening to any good music lately, I would love to hear about it!

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