Image illustration Elisabeth newsletter

🎁 Get 3 gifts to improve your French

They will allow you to overcome a blockage. Panicking or not understanding when someone speaks to you in French 🤯.

They are free and without obligation 🙏.

Leave your name and email to receive your gifts ⬇️

It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time 🙏



This is a mistake I hear even from people who speak French very well. I hear the neighbor's dog barking every morning, I'm sick of it.

"I heard Rihanna's latest single on the radio", but on the other hand I'll say "I listened to Rihanna's latest single on Spotify".

Welcome to this new French video. Today, we are going to talk about the difference between hearing and listening. This is a mistake I hear very often when non-French speakers speak. They will use one or the other, but not in the right way and I totally understand because the difference can be quite fine depending on the context. So in this video, we will see what the difference is and how to use the right verb in the right place.

If you are new to French, I am Elisabeth. On this channel, I post videos to help you progress in French every week. Hearing and listening. In both cases, we are talking about sounds that come into our ears.

But there is a difference in action between hearing and listening. This is a mistake that I hear even from people who speak French very well, who have integrated the language very well.

Because I think that... nobody corrects you, because we understand very well what you say, even if it's not correct. It's still important for you to understand the difference.

Let's focus on "listening" first. When I listen, I'm active, so it's a step I take. I'm going to focus on listening. I'm making an effort. So if I'm listening to a podcast, it's not my sister listening in the next room. No, it's me, I decided to put on this podcast and listen to what they're saying.

Likewise, I can say "I listen to my husband telling me about his day at work" or "I listen to my French teacher". So you pay attention to what is said. You are active, the sounds enter your ear, but you choose it.

Let's move on to the verb "to hear". When we hear we are passive, we don't really choose to listen.

The sounds go into our ears by themselves. So that's exactly what I was telling you. I can hear my sister in the next room listening to a podcast. So she's listening. I can hear. I hear the noise, I hear the sounds. For example, if someone says to me, "Do you hear the music that's on the radio?" I can say no, "I can't hear, the sound is too low."

I can also say "I hear the neighbor's dog barking every morning, I'm sick of it". You undergo, you are passive. Here, it is rather simple, we will say. But there are situations where it's a little more complex, where it's more about the finesse of the language. For example, I could say to my husband who has been away on business for a week: "I want to call you, I want to hear your voice". Of course, when he talks to you, you will listen to him talk. But if you put yourself in a position where you are passive, no matter what he says, you want to hear the sound of his voice.

So you don't need a very strong concentration. So that's why I don't say "I want to listen to your voice". Here's another example where it can also sound a little complex and you'll see the finesse of the language. I can say "I heard the latest Rihanna single on the radio", but on the other hand I'll say "I listened to the latest Rihanna single on Spotify".

So if you've heard it, it's been in your ears, you've heard it on the radio. However, when I go on Spotify and I do the process, I look for the new Rihanna single. I put it on voluntarily, now you've listened. You've taken a step to discover this single.

I heard it on the radio but I listened on Spotify or YouTube, whatever. I'm going to give you examples where there are both verbs so you understand the difference. I heard some noise outside, people were talking. I went to the window to listen to their conversation.

I heard noise, but I listened to their conversation. I don't listen to music while working, but often I hear the neighbors' music. A little extra info on the verb to hear, also sometimes and what adds a little confusion, is that we will use it as a synonym for the verb to understand.

So I can tell someone who is explaining something to me. Yes, I hear what you're telling me. In this case, it means that you have understood what this person has told you. So it's not just that the sounds are getting into your ears. You want to say that you have understood.

Another example is if someone tells you "I can't stand my boss anymore, I want to quit my job". You can answer "I hear you, but what are you going to do next? If I hear you right, do you want to go back to school?"

So you see, here, hearing is used as a synonym for understanding.

That's it for today, I hope you liked this video, that it allowed you to better differentiate these two verbs. If you liked it, of course, put a like, put a like and I say to you very quickly for a next video.

Share this article

My French lessons 🇫🇷

Dialogue courses to improve your French

Boost your understanding in French 🚀

40 conversations + cards to understand everyday French.

You understand French spoken at school or in movies but you panic when you have a real conversation with a native French speaker 😱 ?

Work on your listening comprehension with 40 dialogues from daily life in France (+ vocabulary cards + comprehension quiz).

Each month, a new dialogue is added.

45 minutes of conversation with Elisabeth

Boost your French speaking 🚀

45 minutes of conversation in French with me (+ working document)

Want to practice your French speaking skills, gain fluency and confidence? Book a private conversation session with me.

More than a simple conversation, I accompany you in your progression...

At the end of each session, I will send you a PDF summary sheet with your mistakes and corrections.

90 days to progress in French

90 days of exercises to progress in French

90 days to progress in French through your daily life.

This booklet will guide you through your day to improve your French in 15 minutes a day.

Free resources that might interest you

50 French slang words

50 French slang words with examples (maj 2023)

Slang is a form of colloquial and popular language used by specific social groups in France. Most of the time it is young people, but this is not always the case. Words or expressions are often used

Videos that might interest you

Scroll to Top