Posted by: Idioma Extra | December 1, 2011

Thursday Tidbits – Hear vs. Listen

Thursday Tidbits – Hear vs. Listen

Many English learners have trouble knowing when to use hear and when to use listen.  Check out the differences between the two verbs below.

To hear is a passive verb and is something that happens automatically. When you hear, it is an unplanned action that only happens because your ears have the physical ability to recognize sounds.

Example:  Elena can hear everything her neighbors say in the apartment next to her.

Elena doesn’t want to hear her neighbors, but does not have the choice.

To listen is a voluntary action that has a specific purpose and requires attention. The person listening is doing so actively.

Examples:  Steve was listening to the presentation and taking notes.

Steve was actively paying attention to the presentation.

Check yourself

Choose the correct option in the following sentences.

  1. Last night I (heard/listened to) the sirens on Paseo Colon.
  2. If I can’t go to a soccer game, I like to (hear/listen to) it on the radio.
  3. Jane and John broke up because neither (heard/listened) when the other spoke.
  4. Alvin didn’t (hear/listen to) his phone ring because he had his headphones in.
  5. When I go to the mountains, I shut my eyes and concentrate, just to see what noises I can (hear/listen to).

 Answers to last week’s Check Yourself

1. I (am/have/no verb) 13 years old.

2. I (am/have/no verb) a turtle. He (is/has/no verb) 100 years old.

3. I (am/have/no verb) so happy, that you (are/have/no verb) agree with me.

4. I (haven’t/am not/no verb) eaten in hours. I (am/verb/no verb) hungry.

5. I (have/am/no verb) a friend named Sally and she (is/has/no verb) 32 years old.


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