This explanation is the answer to one of our facebook fans question. If you have a question too, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments box below.
The important difference between listen and hear is that listening is deliberate, and hearing is not. Hear means that sounds come into your ears whether you want it or not, while listen means that you consciously pay attention to what you hear, that is you want to hear something:
- Can you hear the birds singing in the garden?
- I’m listening, but I can’t hear anything.
- We heard a terrible noise when the cars crashed in front of our house.
- Listen, some fine jazz music is played in the neighbour’s flat.
- Have you heard the news? Peter has married a millionaire’s daughter.
- Turn on the radio, please. I’d like to listen to the news.
When we use listen with an object, we say listen + to + object:
- He listens to the news on the radio every morning.
- Everybody listened carefully to the old man’s story.
- You’ll get in trouble if you don’t listen to your teacher.
We may also use hear when we listen to somebody or something attentively or officially (usually in the past), but there is no emphasis on the action of listening, that is the fact that we heard it or the contents of what we heard is important and not the action:
- I heard a very interesting speech on the radio last night.
- We heard David Bowie live when we were in London.
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