Hear or Listen?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Hear" and "Listen"?

"Hear" and "listen" are easy to confuse because they both relate to the sense of hearing.
  • "Hear" means to experience sound. For example:
    • I hear the dogs bark every morning.
  • "Listen" means to apply the ability to hear. For example:
    • Listen to the wind blowing through the branches.
hear and listen explained

More about "Hear" and "Listen"

The verbs "to hear" and "to listen" have similar meanings, but there is a subtle difference between them.


The verb "to hear" means to experience sound. In other words, it means to perceive sound through the ears. For example:
  • I heard a noise outside. correct tick
  • My dog can't hear very well. correct tick
  • I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. correct tick (Chinese philosopher Confucius)
  • Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. correct tick (Writer Mark Twain)


The verb "to listen" means to deliberately apply the ability to hear. In other words, it means to pay attention to a sound. "To listen" is usually followed by "to" or "for." For example:
  • Listen to the drum solo. correct tick
  • The dog listens for the car arriving. correct tick
  • Do you like to listen to classical music? correct tick
  • There is only one rule for being a good talker: learn to listen. correct tick (Journalist Christopher Morley)
  • Everybody's a teacher if you listen. correct tick (Actress Doris Roberts)

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? List of easily confused words

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