Spanish Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Spanish language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In school I learned that escuchar was for the English "to listen to" and oír was "to hear." In Central America, however, I frequently heard escuchar being used for "to hear" (e.g. No te escucho meaning "I can't hear you" as opposed to "I'm not listening to you").

What is the normal semantic range of escuchar and oír?

Where are the regional differences found, and when can escuchar be used like oír?

share|improve this question


Mientras que la diferencia entre una palabra y la otra es clara, el uso dependerá si se trata de un uso formal o informal.

Oír - Percibir por el oído (un sonido) o lo que (alguien) dice.

Escuchar - Poner atención o aplicar el oído para oír (algo o a alguien). Por tanto, la acción de escuchar es voluntaria e implica intencionalidad por parte del sujeto, a diferencia de oír, que significa, sin más, percibir por el oído (un sonido) o lo que (alguien) dice. Puesto que oír tiene un significado más general que escuchar, casi siempre puede usarse en lugar de este, algo que ocurría ya en el español clásico y sigue ocurriendo hoy. Menos justificable es el empleo de escuchar en lugar de oír, para referirse simplemente a la acción de percibir un sonido a través del oído, sin que exista intencionalidad previa por parte del sujeto; pero es uso que también existe desde época clásica y sigue vigente hoy, por lo que no cabe su censura.


While the difference between one word and the other is clear, the use will depend of if it is used for formal or informal use.

Hear - To perceive by hearing (sound) or what (someone) says.

Listen - Paying attention or put his ear to hear (something or someone). Therefore, the action is voluntary and involves listening intention by the subject, unlike hearing, which means, without more, received by the ear (sound) or what (someone) says. Because hearing is a more general listening, can almost always be used instead of this, which was the case in classical Spanish and is still happening today. Less justifiable is the use of listening instead of hearing, to refer simply to the act of perceiving sound by ear, without any prior intention by the subject, but also use that has existed since classical times and continues today, so censorship can not be made.

share|improve this answer

I think "escuchar" is only used as to hear when you say something like "i can't hear you" it's like an acceptable misuse or an exception to the correct way. It's hard to see someone using "te escucho andar" like "I hear you walking" it would be allways "te oigo andar".

share|improve this answer

In Central America and South America the people use many words without reason what it mean.

The difference between "Oír" & "Escuchar" is the attention that you gives to the entity that make the noise.

"Oír" is "Escuchar" but without understand the ambit and the way and other thinks that it was produced.

But as I say before, you don't have to pay attention because depends of how do the person expressed.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.