Hear VS Listen


  • Perceive with the ears (any sound that comes to the ears)
    I heard a loud bang outside.
    Can you hear me?
  • To know or become aware of
    I heard that you are going on a vacation next week.
    I heard about the company’s new rule.
  • Receive communication from a person
    I haven’t heard from him since he left the company.
    Have you heard from your daughter recently?
    I hope to hear from you soon. (usually in letters/mails)



  • Pay attention to a sound
    I am listening to my favorite song right now.
    Please listen to your teacher when she’s talking.
    Listening leads to learning!
  • Take careful note, follow advice
    Listen to the experts, they know what’s best to do.
    I am a good child, I always listen to my parents.


Now that we have listed their meanings, let’s have a more straight forward approach to finding the difference.


Hearing is a sense. It naturally occurs. You hear any sound that your ears catch. It’s automatic and therefore not intentional. You don’t make a decision to hear something.

Listening requires attention and intention. You can hear anything but you may or may not listen to something. It’s an action word so it requires a decision.

You can hear someone talking but you need to listen to them to understand what the person is talking about.


Let’s have some examples.

  • A: I can hear something.
    B: Ssshhh… Listen.
  • A: Did you hear everything the speaker said?
    B: Yeah, I heard it all. I listened very carefully to what he was saying.
  • I am listening to the radio when I heard the phone ring.
  • We were listening to the speech when we heard the baby cry.
  • I’m sorry, I was listening to music with my earphones so I did not hear you knocking at the door.
  • I heard you but I was not listening so I did not get your point.

I hope that these examples helped in determining the difference between hear and listen. Just remember thatwe can hear a lot of things around us but we can always choose what to listen to.


Note: Listen is always followed by ‘to’ (i.e. listen to, listening to)


To make it more exciting, I will add idioms/expressions related to hear/listen. ^^

  • hear a pin drop – very quiet (Ex. Everyone was so quiet you can hear a pin drop.)
  • I’m all ears – to listen attentively (Ex. A:I need to talk to you about something. B:Go shoot! I’m all ears.)
  • listen up – listen carefully (Ex. Listen up guys! This is very important.)
  • hear someone out – listen to what someone has to say (Ex. Please hear me out, I’ve got something to tell you.)
  • make one’s self heard – to speak loudly so that everyone will hear you, make people hear you out (Ex. I needed to shout to make myself heard. )
  • sorry to hear that – an expression of regret (Ex. A: My body is weak, I can’t play anymore. B: I’m sorry to hear that.)
  • hard of hearing – has difficulty to hear (Ex. Please speak louder. My grandmother is hard of hearing.)
  • there’s none so deaf as those who will not hear – sarcastic way of addressing those who do not want to listen and pretend they haven’t heard anything (Ex. She tried her best to tell the boss about the bad effect of the new rule but there’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.)

One thought on “Hear VS Listen

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