Would you please tell me if there is any difference in meaning between I don't hear you clearly and I'm not hearing you clearly in the context below?

Would you please speak into the phone as I don't hear you clearly.

Would you please speak into the phone as I'm not hearing you clearly.

Are both perfectly natural there? If so, is there any difference in meaning?

3 Answers 3


"I don't hear you clearly" seems wrong in this context.

'Don't' normally refers to what never happens, or what should never happen - for example, "I don't eat meat", or "I don't speak Spanish".

When something may be possible, but is not currently possible for some reason, we would normally say "I can't" (a contraction of 'I cannot').

So, saying "I can't hear you clearly" suggests that you are trying to hear but, for some reason, you are unable to.

Your alternative of "I'm not hearing you clearly" is fine, as the present continuous tense indicates this is a current issue.


They are both correct, but the first would be less usual in most locations.

"Would you please speak into the phone as I can't hear you clearly." would probably be most natural in most places.

  • Less usual in most locations? That is simply not the case. Sorry.
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2022 at 15:46
  • No need to be sorry, but some backup would be useful. (I researched using Google).
    – PRL75
    Nov 7, 2022 at 15:48
  • Yes, research using google can be useful but an informed native speaker should beat it most of the time. That's the "back-up".
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2022 at 15:54
  • Right. And I am a native user, and, in this case, I fully agree with Google. Have you got anything to support your assertion?
    – PRL75
    Nov 7, 2022 at 15:57
  • 1
    It is not idiomatic to say, I don't hear you, to mean, I can't hear you. I think you can find the roots of the issue in the verbs do and can. I cannot hear you, implies I am trying to hear what you are saying but something is preventing me from hearing you. I do not hear you, means you are trying to communicate with me but you are failing. When you start talking about the conquests of Rasputin, I do not hear you (because I do not listen to talk of Rasputin.)
    – EllieK
    Nov 7, 2022 at 17:35


Would you please speak into the phone as I don't hear you clearly.

Would you please speak into the phone as I'm not hearing you clearly.

  1. Generally, it would be "more natural" to say "I can't hear you clearly".

hear is a sense verb, like feel or look or seem.

  1. They are usually used in the simple present.

This coat feels good. The soup tastes good. The weather looks awful.


For something happening at the moment or for a voluntary action, the present continuous can be used:

I'm not hearing you clearly. [like the example above]
That's not sounding very good. [what someone says]

Here's a chart that sums up the uses of these types of verbs, which I cannot reproduce here. Please click the link:

sense verbs

There are also a few verbs that change meaning in the simple present and continuous: hear and see, for example.

sense verbs

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