“hear” and “listen” are both verbs related to sounds. The meaning of both words is therefore related but different. It is important not to confuse the meaning and use.
“hear” is the action of a sound coming to our ears. “hearing” is one of the five senses. We sense a sound. Our ears physically detect the sound. We do not have a choice. When we hear something, we are inactive. We are not trying to do something. No real effort is required to hear something.
When a doctor checks our ears, it is called a “hearing test.” – It is not a listening test.
I hear this bird singing every morning.
Did you hear that noise?
You are talking quietly but I can hear you.
Form of “hear”
hear + object
I heard a noise.
She heard a car.
We heard an explosion.
hear + object + ing form of verb
I heard him shouting. (the action was in progress)
hear + object + base form of verb
I heard him shout. (the action was completed)
“hear” is a stative verb
“hear” is an example of a stative (or state) verb. As with all the stative verbs, “hear” does not usually have a continuous form.
I am hearing a noise.
We use “can hear” to describe hearing something at a particular moment in time.
I can hear a noise.
Expressions with hear
to introduce a piece of news or a rumour.
I hear that Jane is pregnant.
“to hear from someone”
“hear from” + someone
to receive news from someone.
David heard from Mark yesterday. Mark called him.
Have you heard from Jane? I am worried about her.
Listen is when we are concentrating on a sound. We are active. We are paying attention to the sound. It is possible to hear without listening. But it is impossible to listen without hearing.
In a language exam, to test a student’s understanding of the language, the test is called a “listening test”. It is not a hearing test.
“Please listen to the instructions for the exam.”
“Mark, are you listening to me?”
She didn’t hear the telephone because she was listening to music.
Form of listen
When listen has an object, we use the preposition “to“.
“listen to” + object
I listened to the radio this morning.
Please listen to me.
If there is no object, we do not use “to”.
“Everybody, please be quiet and listen!”
“listen” is not a stative verb. It has a continuous form which we use to describe the action at a particular moment in time.
Jane: What are you doing?
Mark: I am listening to the radio.
“listen” also has a simple form to describe a regular action or habit.
I listen to the radio every morning.
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