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As this dictionary puts it I hear what you are saying means to acknowledge what someone has said. But in the 13th episode of the 7th season of Friends Phoebe said I am hearing what you are saying. Here is the context:

Phoebe: (on phone) Hi, this Phoebe from Empire Office Supplies, can I speak to your supply manager please? (Listens) Earl, thanks. (Listens) Hi Earl, this is Phoebe from Empire Office Supplies I’d like to talk to you about your toner needs. (She’s reading from the script.)

[Cut to Earl’s office, who is played by Jason Alexander, George from Seinfeld. They cut back and forth between Phoebe’s and Earl’s offices with each of their lines.]

Earl: I don’t need any toner.

Phoebe: I’m hearing what you’re saying, but at our prices everyone needs toner.

Is there any difference in meaning between I hear what you are saying and I am hearing what you are saying?

2 Answers 2

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There's a slight difference. To say "I hear what you are saying" implies that the person has more or less finished their message and you want to convey that you understand what it is they say. They may or may not have more to say and you may or may not listen to what is subsequently said. Often this is used in an argument context to tell they person they don't need to keep talking because you got the message. This can be the end of the conversation.

If you say say "I am hearing what you are saying," you suggest that you are listening in a slightly more ongoing way...the person has said some things but is continuing to say relevant things and you want them to know you are still listening and will continue to do so. This is not the end of the conversation. In this case the customer is trying to end the conversation and she is using that tense as part of an attempt to keep it going.

The latter usage isn't all that common. it's intended to be cute, consistent with her character.

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There is a subtle difference as mentioned in the answer by farnsy.

However, you should be aware that "I hear what you're saying" is not usually taken to have its literal meaning.

Rather than saying the they are audible, it means that you understand the point they are trying to make (but usually do not agree, or only agree in part).

e.g. *"I think there should be more women in top management"

"I hear what you're saying, but it's not easy to achieve that immediately"*

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