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HEAR and LISTEN: Difference between Hear vs. Listen in English

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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who seems to not be listening to a word you say? Or have you ever been accused of not hearing someone when you thought you were? The truth is, there is a difference between hearing and listening, and it can greatly affect our communication with others.

Understanding the Terms


When we hear something, it means that we are perceiving sound through our ears. Hearing is a passive process, which means that it happens naturally without any conscious effort from us. For example, we can hear the sound of a bird singing outside our window or the sound of a car passing by on the street.


On the other hand, listening is an active process that requires effort and attention. When we listen, we are not just hearing the sounds around us, but we are also paying attention to them and trying to make sense of them. Listening involves focusing on the sounds we hear and interpreting their meaning. For example, we can listen to a lecture in class or to a friend who is telling us a story.

It is important to note that hearing and listening are not the same thing. While we can hear without listening, we cannot listen without hearing. Listening requires us to be present in the moment and to actively engage with the sounds around us.

That’s it for this section. Let’s move on to the next one.

Difference between Hear and Listen

HEAR means that sounds come into your ears whether you want them or not, while LISTEN means that you consciously pay attention to what you hear.

How to Use HEAR

HEAR (no effort)  – A sound/ noise comes into your ear without you making an effort.

  1. You do not make conscious decision to hear.
  2. You physically experience the sense of sound.
  3. Sometimes the sound you hear is sudden or unexpected like a noise, an alarm or an explosion.


  • Can you hear me?
  • Did you hear the thunder last night?
  • I didn’t hear what you said. Sorry
  • Could you speak louder, please? I couldn’t hear anything.
  • Can you hear the birds singing in the garden?
  • We heard a terrible noise when the cars crashed in front of our house.

How to Use LISTEN

LISTEN (no effort) – When you pay attention and try to listen to sounds

  1. You make decision to listen
  2. You deliberately pay attention to the sound.
  3. Listen + to + object (something)


  • Are you listening to the radio last night?
  • My sister loves listening to music.
  • I tried to listen but I couldn’t hear anything.
  • Listen!  some fine jazz music is played in the neighbor’s flat.
  • Everybody listened carefully to the old man’s story.
  • You’ll get in trouble if you don’t listen to your teacher.


You can hear somebody talking but you need to listen to them to understand what they are saying.

Key Differences

When it comes to hearing and listening, there are some key differences that are important to understand. In this section, we’ll explore the differences between hearing and listening in terms of intent, focus, and effort.


Hearing is a passive process that happens naturally when sound waves enter our ears. It doesn’t require any effort or intention on our part. Listening, on the other hand, is an active process that involves paying attention to and interpreting the sounds we hear. In order to listen effectively, we need to have a specific intention or purpose for listening.


Another key difference between hearing and listening is the level of focus involved. Hearing can happen in the background while we’re doing other things, and we may not even be aware of it. Listening, on the other hand, requires our full attention. We need to be present and focused in order to pick up on the nuances and meaning behind the sounds we’re hearing.


Finally, there’s a difference in the amount of effort required for hearing versus listening. As we mentioned earlier, hearing is a passive process that happens naturally. Listening, on the other hand, requires effort and energy. We need to actively engage with the sounds we’re hearing, which can be mentally and emotionally taxing.

In summary, the key differences between hearing and listening come down to intent, focus, and effort. While hearing is a passive process that happens naturally, listening is an active process that requires intention, focus, and effort.

Difference between Hear and Listen | Picture

Difference between HEAR and LISTEN