Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! My name is Alisha.
In this lesson, I'm going to talk about the differences between the verb "listen" and "hear." I'm going to talk about two ways that we use these verbs and we're going to compare a few grammar points and usage points.
So, let's get started!
Okay, let's begin with the verb "hear."
We'll start with this meaning. So, the basic meaning of the verb "hear" is "to have sound enter the ear," so that's it. It's just sound coming into the ear, anyone's ear, an animal's ear, even. So, "to hear" just refers to this motion, if you can imagine it visually, of sound coming into the ear.
So, some example sentences that use this meaning.
First, "I can hear kids playing."
So, this is a common way that we use the verb "hear" along with "can." So, I am able to hear kids playing, so the sound of kids playing can enter my ear is what this means.
We can also use it in past tense like…
"We heard a loud noise."
Keep in mind that this is an irregular verb, so we don't use "heared," but we use "heard." "Heard" is the past tense form of this verb. "We heard a loud noise," so that means the sound of a loud noise entered our ears.
One more example, in a question this time.
"Have you ever heard a traditional song?"
So this is the past participle form of the verb, "Have you ever heard a traditional song?" So, in other words, has a traditional song, the sound of a traditional song ever entered your ear? So this is the most basic meaning of the verb "hear."
Another very common meaning of the verb "hear" is this, "to receive communication."
So, "to receive communication" can mean something spoken, something we use our word/speech to do or it can mean written communication like emails or letters. So, we use "hear" to talk about receiving that information.
Some examples of this:
First, past tense again, "He heard the bad news this morning."
This could mean actually receiving information with the ear like in this case. It could also mean receiving the information in an email, but either way, the key communication point is something like information, some kind of information was passed to this person. So he learned the information, he received some kind of communication, in this case, bad news. Let's look at a question now.
This is a common question.
This is a common question, "Did you hear?"
And then we follow it with, like the information we want to ask about.
"Did you hear? The meeting time changed."
So this means, did you receive communication about this point, "the meeting time changed." "Did you hear?" This is a really common question we use to ask about communication sharing.
Okay, one more example.
"She hears everything from her boss."
This means she received all her communication from her boss.
So these are kind of the two most common meanings of the verb "hear." There is one key point. You'll notice I haven't used the progressive form or the continuous form in these example sentences. So, the progressive form is quite rarely used with this verb. We rarely use the -ING form, "hearing" in the progressive. I've included a couple examples though, in cases where you might hear it in the progressive.
So, with this first meaning, I talked about how "hear" can mean "to have sound enter the ear." So, in a question like this, "Are you hearing this?" we might use "hearing" in this progressive to mean like, is this something else that you are currently in this state of, being able to hear? That's a really strange way to say that.
But, this is something that you might hear in, like a movie. So if you imagine, for example, there are police officers and they are listening, I'll talk in a moment, they're listening to, like some kind of audio feed like they're listening to something in another room. They hear something suspicious and if one person wants to confirm the other person can hear the same thing, they might use, "Are you hearing this?" So that means there's a sound that's continuing one person wants to confirm the other person can hear the same sound. So the sound is continuing, that's why this progressive form is used, like, "Are you hearing this?" So that's one case where you might hear the verb "hear" used in the progressive tense.
Then, the second meaning I talked about, "to receive communication," this is an example of when you might use "hearing," the progressive form for this one. In a statement like, "I'm hearing a lot about... (something)," like "I'm hearing a lot about some policy changes" or "I'm hearing a lot about the weather lately." So "hearing," I'm hearing, I'm hearing a lot about (something), means I'm receiving a lot of communication recently about something.
So, these are a couple situations where you might use "hear" in the progressive tense, but in most cases, we use them not in the progressive tense. So, with that in mind, I already started using the verb "listen," but I want to move on to showing the differences with this verb than here.
So let's begin with this first meaning.
The first meaning of "listen" is "to focus attention on a sound," to focus your attention on a sound.
So this is the key difference with this meaning of "hear." So with "hear," we're just… sound is coming into the ear. We're not really focusing on it. It's just there. With "listen;" however, we are focusing our attention.
So examples of this:
"Let's listen to some music."
So here, I'm focusing my attention on music or I want to, I'm suggesting we focus attention on music.
In this example:
"Listen to me."
So listen to the speaker. Please focus your attention on the things the speaker is saying.
Third…
"What are you listening to?"
So here, we see in the progressive tense common for this verb, "What are you listening to?" What are you focusing your sound, attention on?
So you'll notice in each of these example sentences, I'm using the preposition "to." So, when you're using this verb, we'll use it with "to" to describe or to indicate the thing we are focusing our attention on. So in this case, "to music," to me." And "What are you listening to?" This is a common question. We end with this preposition. You could say, "To what are you listening?" but it's not so natural. It sounds a little too formal. A more common question is, "What are you listening to?" You could ask this to someone who is wearing headphones, for example.
So, this is the first meaning and the most basic meaning of "listen." So, if you want to talk about music, if you want to talk about, like a video you're watching, for example, you can use "listen," so focusing your attention on something you can hear.
Okay, with that in mind, let's go on to the second use or another use of listen. This one is also very common. This use of "listen" means "to obey" or like "to follow a rule" or "to follow advice," "to follow instructions." So, it's a little bit different from this meaning of listen.
Example, first example:
"He never listens to our advice."
So this use of "listen," it means that this person maybe actually focuses their attention on hearing something, yes, but in this meaning, it means he doesn't follow what we say he should do, like he does not obey our advice. So if we say, for example, "You should get up early every day" and he does not do that, we could say, "He never listens to our advice to get up early," for example. So, "listen" in this way means obey, "to obey (something)."
Here, in the second example sentence…
"I always listened to my parents when I was a kid."
Here, I have past tense, "listened." You'll notice this is a regular verb so we use -ED at the end of the verb to make the past tense form. "I always listened to my parents when I was a kid." So, this shows a repeated action, a regular action when the speaker was a kid, so this use of listen means "followed advice" or "followed instructions" from parents here. So "I always listened to…," it would be kind of strange to say this like I always focused my attention on the things that my parents said, like it could be something that's real, I suppose, but in this use, it means "followed instructions from someone's parents."
One more example:
"You should listen to your manager."
This one probably means "to obey," yes. There are some cases where perhaps the manager is giving a speech, for example, and someone might say, "Hey, you should listen to your manager," like the manager is speaking now. But in most cases, this probably means to obey or to follow the instructions of one's manager.
So, you'll notice, there are a couple of differences, a couple of different kind of feels, feelings rather, that we see in this. So again, to focus attention on a sound and to obey or to follow instructions. So you'll notice again, here, we're using the preposition "to" as well.
So, this is a quick introduction to the differences between the verbs "listen" and "hear." I hope that it was helpful for you, but if you have any questions or if you want to practice making example sentences or if you have any other comments, please feel free to let us know in the comment section of this video. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!

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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Thursday at 04:56 PM
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Hi Pablo,


Thank you for taking the time to leave us your comment. Great that our lesson was helpful to you! 😇


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Pablo José Morales
Thursday at 02:27 AM
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A great explanation about the differences between Hear and Listen to!


It remembered when my wife told me that I hear but no listen to her.


Thanks a lot!