What is the difference between:

Look, you shouldn't ...

Listen, ...

Is it true that the first one is more about your opinion, but the second one - about some news/information?


1 Answer 1


No, the choice between "literal" listen and "metaphoric" look has no implications for intended meaning in such contexts. It's entirely a stylistic choice. And both versions are only likely in casual spoken contexts, so there's no difference in "level of formality" either.

On the other hand, there is often a difference between these two possible replies...

1: I see what you mean (usually implies ...and I agree with you)
2: I hear what you say (often implies ...but I disagree, or there's more to it than that).

EDIT: Idiomatically, it's "unnatural" to say I see what you say OR I hear what you mean, so arguably I'm not really comparing like with like above. A better pair (where both versions are quite natural) might be...

1a: I see what you're saying
2a: I hear what you're saying

...where the same usage distinction applies (how likely is it to be followed by a "but..." caveat?).

  • 1
    As a native speaker, I 100% agree with your see/hear distinction, but I find it rather baffling that it even exists. This is something I would do subconsciously.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 6:36
  • 2
    "I see", here, means more like "I see it now" or "I realize", I think. Consequently, it is an admission of fault. (I didn't see it before.) While I hear is jut "your words are reaching my ears, I see your point (see what I did here?) but it's not a realization to me, I'm still of my previous opinion.
    – Zachiel
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 10:02
  • @Zachiel that sums up it really well, thank you for adding that. Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 10:19

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