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A: How are you?

B: I'm good. How about you? I heard (about) what happened. I'm sorry.

Context: A has lost his father, which B has been told from someone else.

Would it be more natural to include "about" or leave it out in this context?

3 Answers 3

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Gngram indicates that heard what happened is much more used than heard about what happened. However, I think they are both natural, without much difference in meaning.

According to free dictionary

hear about = To learn about someone or something, typically (but not always) via word of mouth.

OR

to learn about someone or something. (Not necessarily by hearing.)

Macmillan presents hear and hear about as synonyms, meaning:

to receive information about something.

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We usually say: hear about something and hear + clause. But if you said, "Did you hear about what happened?", that would mean,

"Are you aware about / Do you know what happened?"

Did you hear what happened? ( Are you informed of what happened? )

They don't mean the same thing. But sometimes they may be interchangeable because there is a barely noticeable nuance of meaning.

To answer the question, both options are natural and nobody would hesitate to say either. It could be more common to leave it out but, as I said, it's not incorrect or unnatural in any way.

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I heard about what happened:

Meaning you have specific details about the fathers death

I heard what happened:

Meaning you only heard about what happened and don't know anything else about it

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