The difference between “hear” and “listen”

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Several weeks ago we received an email from Anis, asking us the difference between “hear” and “listen”.  So I thought this would be a good idea for a blog post, as many can benefit from this.

In the Malay language, both words can be translated as “dengar”. So it’s understandable why “hear” and “listen” are often mixed up.

But in English, “hear” is a verb that means to sense a sound with our ears, while “listen” is a verb that means to actively focus on a particular sound.

Let’s imagine you’re chatting with a friend in a park. You can hear birds chirping, children playing around you and your friend talking to you. However, you focus only on what your friend is saying to you. That means you are listening to her.

Hear = to sense any sound coming to our ears.
Listen = to focus on a particular sound coming to our ears.

I hope this explanation is helpful!

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We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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