Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Difference Between "Hear" and "Listen"

Many of my ESL students are confused about when to use the verb "hear" and when to use the verb "listen." I wonder if this may be because in other languages (at least Spanish--escuchar), the same word is used for both English words.

"To hear" is used when a sound comes to your ears. For example, I hear loud music coming from next door. Or, I hear the dog barking outside. Or, I hear the baby crying.

"To listen" is used when a person wants to hear something and is paying attention to it. For example, I am listening to a wonderful new CD. Or, I am listening to my brilliant ESL tutor's explanation about verb tenses.

Compare, "I was listening to some music when I heard the phone ring." Here, I am actively listening to some music and the sound of the phone ringing was a sound that came to me without my taking any action.

P.S. I love the dictionary, Longman Advanced American Dictionary because it knows that students get these two words confused (and many others) and if offers examples of the differences.

--end--

2 comments:

KField said...

When this comes up, and I think the student can handle a little more, I like to teach "overhear" and "eavesdrop" to further the concept. Other similar pairs: look/watch vs. see/catch a glimpse of/notice

edward said...

yoo sir thank you very much. i was soo long confused with these two verbs. hope this clears my doubts.