Listen and Hear – What’s the difference

Listen and Hear - What's the difference Hello there! My name’s Ronnie. I’m going to teach you English. I’m going to teach you about two words that are very easily confused when speaking English, when hearing English and when listening to English at the same time.

These two words are: listen vs. hear.

These words have very similar meanings – is the thing that you do with your ears when you are wanting to get information. There is one major difference, two may be.

The first major difference is how much attention we have to give for each of the words.

When you listen to something or someone you are paying attention. You’re actually concentrating  on what the person is speaking about.

Now, if you’re sitting in front of your computer, what I’m sure you are, and you’re looking at the computer and you’re taking notes. And you’re very attentive to what I’m saying you’re actually listening to me.

If you are at the computer, you’re running this program and you sneak away to get a snack or someone talks to you. You are still hearing what I’m telling you, but you’re not paying attention to it . We have an expression that “it goes in one ear and out the other”. It doesn’t remain in your brain.

So, if something doesn’t remain in your brain you’re only hearing it.


Listen – you pay attention and you’re concentrating on it.

Hearing – it’s like a sound, you don’t care. Another way to think about this is, we say in English, background noise. Background noise is noise, that you don’t care about, you don’t pay attention to. It’s not important.

So, any of you, that are students, you go to school, and your teacher talks. Sometimes your teacher says things that are really interesting. Wow, and you’re listening. And sometimes, like math class, for example, your teacher is just opening his or her mouth and talking. You’re hearing it. You picking up the sounds. You don’t care and you’re not interesting.

The other major difference is, of course, the grammar. It’s easy, don’t worry.

When we use “listen” we always must use the verb with “to”, with “hear” we don’t need another verb.

So, your mother always says “Listen to me!” and your teacher says: “Are you listening to me?” – Yes, I’m.

We never say: “Are you hear to me?” “Are you hearing to me?” – it is strange.

So, the grammar is: you need to listen to someone or something.

We listen to the radio.

You can hear the radio, if it’s in a background – it’s a background noise. Well, if it’s your favorite song, you’re listening to it, you’re dancing around your room.

So, you can listen to either a person or a thing.

And that’s the difference in English between “listen” and “hear”.

Thank you all for listening to this and we’ll see you next time.