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Unit 2: English In A Minute
Give us a minute and we'll give you English

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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!

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!

Watch the video and complete the activity

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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

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.

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.


To do

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