TESOL/Using hear and listen
The words hear and listen both mean that we perceive something with our ears, but the meanings differ.
We use listen when we are concentrating harder on a sound. Hear may happen by accident, but listen is never an accident.
- I thought I heard someone say my name.
I thought I listened to someone say my name.
- Suddenly I heard a dog bark.
Suddenly I listened to a dog bark.
- If you hear my cell phone ring, let me know.
If you listen to my cell phone right, let me know.
Hear is used as a progressive less often than most verbs. Instead, "can hear" is used.
- I can hear the rain fall.
I am hearing the rain fall.
- Can you hear him breathing?
Are you hearing him breathing?
- I could hear man shouting when the car crashed.
I was hearing a man shouting when the car crashed.
"Hearing" may also be an infinitive, which is spelled the same way as a progressive. In that case, it's fine.
- I hate hearing his excuses.
- Hearing the train come makes me excited.
- Hearing you say that makes me happy.
Listen and listen toEdit
Listen is used without "to" if there is no object. If there is an object, we have to use listen to.
- You should listen to your parents.
You should listen your parents.