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Unit 2: English In A Minute
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Session 11

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Hear vs listen

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Listen to Roy explain the difference between 'listen' and 'hear'. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

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Roy
Hi! I'm Roy, and today I'm going to tell you the difference between two words that are often confused: hear and listen.

Hear is the verb we use to talk about the ability. It doesn't mean that we want to hear something. It's about sounds coming to our ears. I can hear the air conditioning. It doesn't mean that I want to hear it, but I can.

The verb listen is often followed by the preposition 'to'. We use this verb when we're paying attention or focusing on sounds. I hope you're listening to me. That means I hope you're paying attention.

Compare these two sentences:
I can hear some music (somewhere). I am listening to some music. I'm listening to a song that I want to listen to.

Anyway, I've got to go. I can hear my boss calling me.

Hear vs Listen

Hear
Hear
is a verb we use to talk about the ability to perceive sounds through the ears. These sounds may be unwanted or disturbing, for example: You can hear a dog barking and it's stopping you from sleeping.

  • I can hear the air conditioning.
  • I like to hear the birds in spring.

Listen
Listen
is a verb we use to say that we are paying attention to whatever we are hearing. It is often followed by the preposition 'to'.

  • You should listen to your parents.
  • I'm speaking to you! Listen to me.

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