Oir vs Escuchar
Language Resources

As anyone in a typical relationship knows, there's a big difference between hearing and listening. For example, Jim hears Sarah say something but he decides not to listen to her request for him to take out the garbage.

Like in English, in Spanish there's a difference between oír(to hear) and escuchar (to listen to) that often gets a bit muddled by students learning Spanish as a foreign language.

Oír is the involuntary awareness of sound, while escuchar is the voluntary effort that one makes to actually pay attention and understand something or someone that you hear. When it comes down to it, you oír with your ears while you escuchar with your brain.

We've listed a few helpful examples below that will help you distinguish the difference.

Oir vs Escuchar

  • Oí unas voces en la calle.
    (I heard voices in the street.)
  • Escuchamos lo que decían las mujeres en la calle.
    (We listened to what the women in the street were saying.)
  • Oigo la radio pero no la estoy escuchando.
    (I hear the radio but I'm not listening to it.)
  • ¡No te oigo!
    (I can't hear you!)
  • ¡No te escucho!
    (I'm not listening to you!)