Main Difference – Hear vs. Listen
Hear and listen are two commonly confused words in the English language. Both these verbs are related to the sense of sound and refer to the receiving of sound through the ear. Though these two verbs can be applied to the same things (things we hear), there is a difference in their meanings. The main difference between hear and listen is that hear is to receive or to become aware of a sound through your ears whereas listen means to make a conscious effort to perceive the sound. The difference between hear and listen is similar to that of see and watch.
Hear – Meaning and Usage
We use hear to say simply that a sound came to our ears. Here, we do not make an effort to receive or understand the sound; we are not paying attention or waiting for the sound. So hear means simply to become aware of a sound. We always hear sounds, noises and voices around us, but we don’t actively pay attention to them. Hear can be specifically used with unexpected sounds. For example,
He ran out of the room when he heard her screaming.
I didn’t hear her crying; I wasn’t really paying attention.
Didn’t you hear her shouting?
Can you speak a little bit louder? I can’t hear you.
I heard someone laughing, but when I came out nobody was there.
Hear is an irregular verb. Its past tense and past participle is heard.
Listen – Meaning and Usage
Listen implies that the listener (the person who is listening) is paying attention to the sound. When we listen, we wait for the sound, and concentrate on the sound; we make an effort to receive the sound. We always listen to things like music and speech. For example;
Anne-Marie loves to listen to music.
To her utter surprise, he listened to her words quietly.
I listened to her speech, but I don’t really agree with her.
Are you listening to me?
She listens to the radio while driving.
I heard her talking but didn’t really listen to her.
You’ll note in the above sentences that the preposition to always follow the verb when listen is used with an object.
Listen + to + object
We listen to music.
Keep in mind that when we are talking about speeches, concerts, music, lectures etc., hear should be used for public performances and listen should be used for non-public performances.
We went to hear new President’s speech.
I listen to music when I’m studying.
Difference Between Hear and Listen
Hear means to receive or to become aware of a sound through ears.
Listen means to make a conscious and active effort to perceive the sound.
Hear is an irregular verb.
Listen is a regular verb.
Hear is not followed by a preposition.
Listen is often followed by the preposition to.
Public vs non-public performances
Hear is used when we are talking about public performances.
Listen is used when we are talking about non -public performances.