What is the difference between the following sentences?

I like hearing the song.

I like listening to the song.

I am sure that both sentences are valid but can't quite see the difference. Does the first imply that I like it when someboy else play the song?

  • 1
    The first does indeed imply that you like it when somebody else plays the song (as when a radio DJ plays it, not normally as when an actual band performs the song). The key point being that we tend to hear music chosen by others (where the experience is effectively "random, unplanned" as regards both content and timing), but we listen to music specifically selected by ourselves, played at a time of our own choosing. Dec 13, 2019 at 14:12
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? What is the difference between 'hear' and 'listen'? Dec 13, 2019 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


In your question, it does not matter who is causing the sound.

I like hearing the song

has the feeling that it's background music which you are aware of but not concentrating on, somewhat passive, whereas

I like listening to the song

has the feeling that you are paying close attention to the song, like the lyrics, much more active.

Additional context is usually added to avoid ambiguity.

When I hike through the woods I can hear the birds singing, but I listen for the spotted owl's call.

  • 1
    In other contexts (such as an exasperated You're hearing me, but you're not listening!), this "paying close attention" distinction would be perfectly accurate. But with the specific example, I'd say that "active / passive" aspect is better typified by pointing out that I like hearing music chosen / presented to my ears by someone else (on the radio, for instance), whereas I like listening to music chosen by me (from my iPod playlist, say). Dec 13, 2019 at 14:04
  • Could you tell in what context you would say "you are hearing me"? Dec 13, 2019 at 15:12
  • That’s an interesting question since I might say “I hear ’ya” to mean “I understand what your meaning is”, whereas I might say “I can’t see you but I can hear you” if we are playing Hide and Seek and you are noisy.
    – Peter
    Dec 13, 2019 at 21:31
  • @DmytroO'Hope You would not say "You are hearing me", usually "Can you hear me?" is usually used to ask if they can hear the vocal noise you make and then they might have to listen carefully (for whatever reason) to understand you
    – Peter
    Dec 14, 2019 at 12:37

Listening means paying attention to what someone is saying and hearing also means someone telling you something that is not important to you but because you don't leave that person you just stand to hear what he or she is saying


Does the first imply that I like it when somebody else plays the song?

Yes, but it is okay to use listening to in that situation.

As you said both sentences are correct.

But I prefer to use listening to the song.

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