Confusing words: listen x hear

Listen! Did you hear that noise?

I guess this sentence illustrates quite well the different meanings of these two verbs, so frequently mixed up by English learners.

To listen is to make an effort to hear something, like when we keep quiet for a moment to pay attention to a noise and figure out exactly what it is, or when we select our favorite song on our iPod and enjoy its harmony and lyrics.

That’s why we say we listen to music or listen to the radio, because we’re actively trying to catch the sounds that are being generated by the device. That’s also why you teacher tells you “Now we’re going to to a listening exercise…” – that’s because she wants you to pay attention to what she is going to play…

Moreover, it’s always polite to listen to other people’s opinions and points of view when you are atteding a business meeting, for example.

To hear, on the other hand, is often an involuntary action that happens when sound waves reach our inner ear and do their magic in our eardrums (did you know this word, by the way?). Ex: “Can you hear me? The connection is a little shaky!”

It can also have a similar meaning to the verb to listen, but it’s not used so frequently. Ex: “Hear you mother and take a sweater! It’s cold outside!”

Another meaning of hear is to express that somebody else has told you something, like some juicy gossip, or even some good news. Ex: “I hearshe’s having triplets! I don’t envy her a bit…”

And when your mother/wife/husband/teacher asks you to do something umpleasant, like taking out the garbage or doing your homework, you can always say:

Sorry! I can’t hear you!



Filed under learn, tips

3 responses to “Confusing words: listen x hear


    Ola Carol
    Quero testar meu ingles para ICAO 4. Vc sabe me informar algum link gratis na internet ??

    Obrigada desde já !!!

    • Bom dia, Vivian,

      Pode haver vários links grátis na Internet, porém não acredito que sejam eficazes para avaliar seu nível de acordo com a Tabela de Níveis de proficiência lingüística da OACI, pois ela exige uma prova oral e uma avaliação criteriosa.

      Por que você não marca uma avaliação comigo? Não será grátis, mas garanto que terá a qualidade de uma profissional de primeira linha!

  2. Pingback: God Is A Radio by T Scott « Tigergrove

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