16 Verbs and Phrases to Say ‘Listen’ in Spanish
“Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.” – Jeanette Winterson
Listening is an essential skill to rely on when you’re trying to master a foreign language. But what does “listening” really mean? Merriam-Webster defines listening as “hearing something with thoughtful attention” and “being alert to catch an expected sound.”
This definition shows us that conscious attention and attentiveness are key aspects of listening.
As you begin to expand the depth of your Spanish foundation while learning new words, phrases, and grammar rules, you’ll likely find yourself having more conversations with native Spanish speakers.
But how can you politely ask for their thoughtful attention? By learning to use any number of these verbs and phrases to say “listen” in Spanish!
The Difference Between “Hear” and “Listen” in Spanish
Have you ever wondered what the difference between “listen” and “hear” is? The same distinction exists in Spanish: escuchar and oír.
“I was listening to you, but I couldn’t hear you very well!”
Te estaba escuchando, ¡pero no te oí bien!
When you listen, you’re paying conscious attention to the speaker and actively avoiding other distractions. Conversely, hearing is less intentional and more like “collecting data,” as clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland says.
Listening is an ability—a skill to be practiced and mastered over time. The more you learn to listen, the more you advance your capacity to detect auditory patterns and nuances.
When it comes to language learning, listening is the best way to become aware of your grammatical mistakes and learn from them.
Think of it this way: If you happen to hear two native Spanish speakers discussing breakfast plans in the street, you may not notice a specific grammar rule.
After all, you’re simply overhearing their conversation.
But if you’re in Spanish class and your teacher prepares you to listen to a specific verb conjugation, your mind is much more focused and attentive, allowing you to actively absorb the material and understand how to make corrections in your speech.
Here are some simple definitions to explore in Spanish. According to Real Academia Española, this is the defining difference between escuchar and oír:
- Escuchar – prestar atención a lo que se oye (to pay attention to what is heard)
- Oír – percibir con el oído los sonidos (to perceive sounds with the ear)
Here’s another way to explain the difference:
Oír es la acción de percibir los sonidos.
Hearing is the action of perceiving sound.
Escuchar es oír a conciencia y con atención.
Listening is hearing consciously and attentively.
Check out these example sentences:
Estaba escuchando muy atentamente en clase para aprender.
I was listening carefully in class so that I could learn.
No oí la llamada porque estaba lejos de mi teléfono.
I didn’t hear the call because I was far from my phone.
As with most verbs that are highly valuable to communication and self-expression, escuchar and oír have plenty of synonyms.
In fact, there are over 20 different ways to ask someone to pay attention!
In the following sections, we’ll conjugate escuchar and oír and then we’ll explore a list of common verbs, phrases, and expressions for saying “listen” in Spanish.
How to Conjugate the Verb “Listen” in Spanish
As you study the verb conjugations in Spanish, keep in mind that most speakers will drop the pronoun during regular conversation. So, instead of hearing someone say yo escucho música (I listen to music), you’ll instead hear escucho música (I listen to music).
In the charts below, you’ll notice that escuchar is a regular verb while oír is an irregular verb that doesn’t follow typical patterns of conjugation. Check them out!
Escuchar: Present Tense
|Yo escucho||Nosotros escuchamos|
|Él/Ella escucha||Ellos/ellas escuchan|
Oír: Present Tense
|Yo oigo||Nosotros oímos|
|Él/Ella oye||Ellos/ellas oyen|
Different Verbs and Expressions to Say “Listen” in Spanish
1. Poner atención
While in English we say “pay attention,” the Spanish version translates more literally to “put attention,” but in the end, their meaning is identical.
Me cuesta poner atención al conferencista.
It’s difficult for me to pay attention to the speaker.
2. Mantenerse atento
This phrase means “to keep your ears open” or “stay tuned.” Common command forms include the usted form: manténgase atento and the tu form: mantente atento.
Mantente atento por si escuchas de algún trabajo.
Keep your ears open in case you hear of a job.
3. Prestar oídos
This phrase literally means “to lend an ear” and the expression prestar oídos a algo means “to listen to something.”
Puedo prestar oídos cuando lo necesites.
I can lend an ear whenever you need me to.
While atender has many meanings such as “to take care of,” “to look after,” and even “to take a call,” it can also mean “to pay attention” if used in a specific context.
Si no sabes las respuestas, tienes que atender.
If you don’t know the answers, you need to pay attention.
Percibir means “to perceive,” which occurs through the five sense. When you perceive with your ears, it naturally refers to listening.
Pude percibir el canto de los pájaros.
I could perceive (hear) the birds singing.
Enterarse is a pronominal verb that means “to find out” or “to hear.” Similar to English, you can use it to ask:
¿Te enteraste de lo que les pasó?
Did you hear about what happened to them?
This reflexive verb means “to listen to oneself.”
Siempre me escucho cuando tengo un mal presentimiento acerca de alguien.
I always listen to myself when I get a bad feeling about someone.
8. Escuchar a escondidas
When you were little, you probably loved to play escondidas with your friends—the ever so popular game of hide-and-seek! When you combine escuchar + a escondidas, this idiomatic expression means “to eavesdrop.”
Cuando estaba escuchando a escondidas, supe que pasó con Joe.
When I was eavesdropping, I found out what happened to Joe.
9. Oír por casualidad
Por casualidad is a phrase that means “by chance” or “by accident” and in combination with the verb oír, it means “to overhear.”
Oí por casualidad que van a cerrar la empresa.
I overheard that they are going to close the company.
10. ¿Me oyes?
While this phrase translates as, “do you hear me?” it’s often used by scolding parents everywhere, as in “do you understand me?”
No lo vuelvas a hacer, ¿me oyes?
Don’t do that again, you hear me?
11. Oiga, ¡por favor!
Oiga is the usted form command of oir. It can mean “excuse me” or “hey!”
Oiga, ¡por favor no me falte al respeto!
Excuse me! Please don’t disrespect me!
12. Hacer oídos sordos
It means to dismiss or act as if you don’t know, as if you haven’t become aware of something. Most people hace oídos sordos about something that needs attention.
No hagas oídos sordos al dolor de cabeza que tienes.
Don’t dismiss the headache you have.
Hey! As in English, it’s used in Spanish to get someone’s attention.
¡Oye! No te vayas corriendo.
Hey! Don’t run away!
14. Oír, ver y callar
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.This phrase is from The Three Wise Monkeys. They’re good luck charms and are identified with the proverbial saying.
Oír, ver y callar para ser una mejor persona.
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil to be a better person.
15. Oír mal
To mishear. To have heard something that you think was wrong.
Oí mal, o ¿te despidieron?
Did I mishear or did you get fired?
16. Oír de alguien
To hear from someone, usually in the form of an update.
Bueno, estoy sorprendida de oír de ti tan pronto.
Well, I’m surprised to hear from you so soon.
Example Conversations for Spanish Practice
Now that we know different verbs and quotes using “listen” in Spanish, let’s take a look at some useful conversations:
– Oí del asistente del profesor que gané el examen.
– Genial. ¡Felicidades!
– I heard from the teacher’s assistant that I passed the exam.
– Wonderful. Congratulations!
– Oí por casualidad que Amanda está enojada.
-Que mal. No hay necesidad de enojarse.
– I happened to hear that Amanda is angry.
– That’s too bad. There’s no need to get angry.
Padre: Es importante escucharse a uno mismo antes de hablar.
Hijo: Entiendo papá.
Father: It’s important to listen to oneself before speaking.
Son: I understand Father.
Madre: Oí de alguien que Alberto no vendrá a la fiesta.
Hija: No sabía.
Mother: I heard from someone that Alberto won’t come to the party.
Daughter: I didn’t know.
Persona 1: Amo poner atención a la letra de canciones.
Persona 2: ¡Yo también!
Person 1: I love listening to the lyrics of songs.
Person 2: Me too!
Persona 1: Mantente atento. La maestra está dando instrucciones.
Persona 2:Está bien.
Person 1: Keep your ears open. The teacher is giving instructions.
Person 2: Ok.
Persona 1: Pon atención al podcast que te recomendé.
Persona 2: Lo haré.
Person 1: Pay attention to the podcast I recommended.
Person 2: I will.
Famous Quotes Using “Listen” in Spanish
Many famous writers in history discovered the importance of listening. When learning a new language, first you have to understand how to listen, then listen to understand and then apply what you learned. Here are some famous and wise quotes using “listen” in Spanish shared by different authors, philosophers, and teachers.
(Being silent is how you learn to hear; listening is how you learn to speak.)
“Tenemos dos orejas y una sola lengua para que oigamos más y hablemos menos.” – Diógenes El Cínico
(We have two ears and just one tongue so that we can listen more and speak less.)
“El conocimiento habla pero la sabiduría escucha.” – Jimi Hendrix
(Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.)
“El interés del que escucha estimula la lengua del que habla.” – Charlotte Bronte
(The listener’s interest stimulates the speaker’s tongue.)
“Deje de hablar tanto y desarrolle el arte de escuchar.” – John C. Maxwell
(Stop talking so much and develop the art of listening.)
“Hablar es de necios, callar de cobardes y escuchar de sabios.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(The stubborn speak, the cowards remain silent, and the wise listen.)
“Sé buen oidor y no gran hablador.” – Cleóbulo de Lindos
(Be a good listener and not a great talker.)
“Para saber hablar es preciso saber escuchar.” – Plutarco
(To know how to speak, you need to know how to listen.)
“Cuando hablas, solo estás repitiendo lo que ya sabes. Pero si escuchas, puedes aprender algo nuevo”. – Dalai Lama.
(When you speak, you’re only repeating what you know. But if you listen, you can learn something new.)
“La capacidad de escuchar a gente inteligente que no está de acuerdo contigo es un talento difícil de encontrar.” – Ken Follett
(Being able to listen to intelligent people that don’t agree with you, is a rare talent to find.)
Tips for Being a Good Listener
The trick to being a good listener is to master the use of your body language, which can speak louder than words. When we listen in Spanish (or any language for that matter), we are paying attention with our ears, eyes, hands and even mouths. Here are some ways to use our body as you listen in Spanish conversation.
1. Nod your head – asentar la cabeza
The nodding head bob is a common gesture that lets the speaker know you’re listening.
2. Open Your Body – abre tu cuerpo
You can open your body by uncrossing your arms and show them that you are open to what they are saying.
3. Activate Your Smile Power – activa el poder de tu sonrisa
Smiling is a powerful way to not only to be friendly, but also to show that you are listening.
4. Lean In – inclínate
. Leaning your body towards the person you’re listening to is a powerful way to let them know that they have your full attention.
5. Mirror Expressions and Postures – expresiones y posturas de espejo
If your gestures mimic the other person’s, it lets them know you like them and what they’re saying.
Let’s Listen in Spanish
Now that you know so many ways to “listen” in Spanish, you’ll be able to ask native Spanish speakers to pay attention to your speech while you practice! What’s more, you’ll start noticing in the Spanish movies, music, and podcasts you listen to all the expressions you’ve seen here in this blog post.
If you’re ready to put your listening skills to the test today while you sharpen your speaking skills at the same time, join us at Homeschool Spanish Academy where our Guatemalan teachers are eager to talk to you! Sign up for a free class to check us out risk-free and see how easy and enjoyable it is to listen to Spanish with a native speaker!
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