Using 'Oír' and 'Escuchar'

Verbs Similar to 'Hear' and 'Listen'

Escuchar es lo importante.
Escuchar es lo importante. (Listening is what's important.) Sign in Valencia, Spain. Metro Centric/Creative Commons.

The differences between oír and escuchar are essentially the same as the differences between "to hear" and "to listen to." While there is some overlap in how the verbs are used, oír generally refers to the simple act of hearing, and escuchar involves the listener's response to what is heard.

Using Oír

Some typical uses of oír as referring to the sensory act of hearing:

  • No puedo oír a nadie con mi nuevo teléfono. (I can't hear anybody with my brand-new telephone.)
  • Cuando era pequeña oí la expresión muchas veces. (When I was little I heard the expression often.)
  • ¿Dónde has estado encerrado si no has oído estas canciones? (Where have you been penned up if you haven't heard these songs?)
  • Finalmente, oiremos el Concierto para piano no. 21 en do mayor. (Finally, we will hear the Concerto for Piano No. 21 in C Major.)

It is common to use oír when referring to activities such as listening to the radio or attending a concert, although escuchar can also be used:

  • Yo oía la radio antes de irme a la cama. (I was listening to the radio before going to bed.)
  • Compramos boletos y fuimos a oír un concierto de jazz. (We bought tickets and went to a jazz concert.)

The imperative forms oye, oiga, oíd (rare in Latin America), and oigan are sometimes used to call attention to what you're saying. Translations vary with the context.

  • Pues oye ¿que quieres que te diga? (Well then, what do you want me to tell you?)
  • Oiga, creo no es una buena idea. (Hey, I don't think it's a good idea.)

Using Escuchar

Like "listen," escuchar carries the idea of paying attention or of heeding advice. Note that escuchar is not typically followed by a preposition in the way that "listen" is nearly always followed by "to." The exception is that when listening to a person the personal a is used.

  • Escucharon el ruido de un avión. (They heard the noise of an airplane.)
  • Mis padres escuchaban mucho a Gipsy Kings. (My parents listened a lot to the Gipsy Kings.)
  • Debes escuchar a tus clientes con más atención. (You should listen more attentively to your customers.)
  • Todos escuchamos el consejo que le da a Miguel. (We all listened to the advice that he gave to Miguel.)
  • Te recomiendo que te escuches la entrevista completa. (I recommend that you listen to the complete interview.)
  • Escuché a mi profesora de yoga y entendí lo que me quería decir. (I listened to my yoga professor and understood what she wanted to tell me.)

The reflexive form, escuchar, is often used to indicate that something was or is heard.

  • La voz del hombre se escuchaba más fuerte y clara. (The voice of the man was heard loud and clear.)
  • Ahora Spotify te dirá qué música se escucha en otros países. (Now Spotify will tell you what music is heard in other countries.)

There are a few situations in which either oír or escuchar can be used with little difference in meaning. Primarily, either can be used when hearing or listening to requests: Oyó/escuchó las súplicas de su amigo. (She heard/listened to the pleas of her friend.)

Related Words

Nouns related to oír include el oído, the sense of hearing, and la oída, the act of hearing.

Oíble is an adjective meaning "audible." In some regions, un escucho is a secret conveyed by a whisper, while escuchón is an adjective referring to someone who is overly curious about what other people are saying.


The conjugation of oír is highly irregular in spelling and pronunciation. Escuchar is conjugated regularly, following the pattern of hablar and other regular -ar verbs.


Oír comes from the Latin audire and is related to words such as "oyez" (a word used in courts to gain attention), "audio" and "audience." It may be distantly related to "hear," possibly coming from same Indo-European root. Escuchar comes from the Latin verb auscultare. It is related to the English verb "to auscultate," a medical term for using a stethoscope to listen to the internal sounds of the body.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Oír' and 'Escuchar'." ThoughtCo, Oct. 7, 2017, Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, October 7). Using 'Oír' and 'Escuchar'. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Oír' and 'Escuchar'." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 25, 2018).