Hear vs Listen- Difference and Meaning

Hear and listen both are Verbs. They can create a confusion as they are related to sound. But it is important to know their meaning to understand the difference between hear and listen.


‘Hearing’ is one of the five senses. As we see by our eyes, we hear by our ears. We sense a sound. Our ears physically detect the sound. We do not have a choice. 
Hearing is something which happens naturally. We don’t have to be extra careful or active to hear something. You have ears so you hear every sound around you unintentionally.


I hear a lot of noise everyday.
I can hear him shouting.
I heard a thunderbolt yesterday night.
There is a disturbance in phone line so I couldn’t hear you.

Form of Hear

Hear is a stative verb. Usually we don’t use it in continuous form. Don’t use to after hear.
I can hear your voice well.
I heard an explosion.


Listening is the act of hearing a sound and understanding what you hear. It is something we do consciously. Listening requires us to pay more attention to what is being said. We need to interpret and understand what we hear. We are more involved when we listen to something. We need to know not just what words somebody has said, but what they meant by them. It is an active process.


I am listening to music.
I am listening to Prime Minister’s speech.
I couldn’t hear the doorbell as I was listening to music.

Form of Listen

We use ‘to’ after listen when we have an object in the sentence. We use listen without ‘to’, if we don’t mention an object.

I listen to the radio every morning.
I am listening to you.
Listen! Can you help me?

Listening is a voluntary action which takes time and effort while hearing is merely an involuntary response to sound.
It is possible to hear without listening. But it is impossible to listen without hearing.

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