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Escuchar vs Oír

What’s the difference between Escuchar and Oír in Spanish? Let’s learn the Spanish verb for “listen” and learn how to choose between Escuchar and Oír. We’ll also learn the Spanish verb for “work”.

Full Podcast Episode



Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn the Spanish verbs for “listen” and “work”.

Let’s begin with Escuchar, which means “to listen”. Yesterday we worked extensively on the verb Oír, which means “to hear”. Escuchar is very close to this verb in meaning. Here’s a very simple example:

They aren’t going to listen.

No van a escuchar.

This verb tends to take direct objects. This makes it a tiny bit of an extra step to translate from English. So compare the English and Spanish in these two examples:

Are you going to listen to him?

¿Lo vas a escuchar?

So even though we say “to him” in English, the Spanish is simply the direct object, lo.

Let’s go ahead and use a mini-quiz to practice this verb. And I’m going to throw a bunch of conjugations at you, but this verb is conjugated exactly like Hablar, so you should be able to do this!

She doesn’t listen to him.

No lo escucha.

(Formal) Listen to the music! It’s really good.

¡Escuche la música! Es muy buena.

You have to listen to us, please.

Nos tienes que escuchar, por favor.

Listen to me! I’m telling you the truth.

¡Escúchame! Te estoy diciendo la verdad.

Listen to her! She wants the best for you.

¡Escúchala! Quiere lo mejor para ti.

(Plural) Listen! I want you to do what I’m telling you.

¡Escuchen! Quiero que hagan lo que les digo.

I didn’t listen to any of what you said.

No escuché nada de lo que dijiste.

Note that in that last example we used the phrase nada de lo que, literally “nothing of what”, but this is often translated into English as “anything that”. Here’s another example:

You didn’t listen to anything that I said.

No escuchaste nada de lo que dije.

All right, now let’s talk a little bit about the differences between Escuchar and Oír and the nuances in using them.

Most literally, Escuchar means “to listen” and Oír means “to hear”, but this doesn’t create a very distinct line between them. For example, it’s very common to try to get someone’s attention by saying oye in Spanish, which comes from Oír, whereas in English we never use the verb “hear” to get someone’s attention; we always say “listen”. In Spanish, both are used. But they mean slightly different things.

When you use imperatives from Oír, such as oye or oiga or oigan, you’re probably just trying to get someone’s attention in general; in that way it’s almost a synonym for “look” (mira or mire or miren).

But if you specifically choose to use Escuchar, what you’re asking is for someone to pay careful attention to what you’re saying, or to what they should be listening to. It’s more of a zoomed-in emphasis on what they’re hearing, specifically. It’s almost like Oír is something you would shout across a long distance, but Escuchar is something you would whisper right before listening in silence.

Here’s another way that Escuchar is used. When you’re having trouble hearing what someone is saying, you’ll often simply say that you can’t “listen” them. Here’s an example:

I can’t hear you very well.

No te escucho muy bien.

This doesn’t translate literally into English very well; literally in Spanish all that it really seems to say is “I don’t listen you very well”. But it’s quite clear from context what is meant. Try it yourself in this next example:

I called him by phone, but I didn’t hear anything.

Lo llamé por teléfono, pero no escuché nada.

So this is a case where Escuchar translates as something like “hear” instead of “listen”. But once again, it’s “hearing” in the sense of using quiet effort to try to understand something you’re listening to.

Let’s practice Escuchar some more, and this time I’m going to throw in some examples that use Oír instead. In each case, start by trying to predict which verb would be used, and then try to predict the entire Spanish sentence.

You have to listen to us.

Nos tienes que escuchar.

Did you hear that?

¿Oíste eso?

(Plural) Listen! I won’t say it again.

¡Escuchen! No lo diré otra vez.

Listen to your friends; they know what is right.

Escucha a tus amigos, ellos saben lo que está bien.

I didn’t hear anything they told me.

No escuché nada de lo que me dijeron.

Hey! Don’t do that!

¡Oye! ¡No hagas eso!

(formal) Listen! This is important!

¡Escuche! ¡Esto es importante!

He didn’t hear you when you left the house.

No te oyó cuando te fuiste de la casa.

Listen to me! I’m telling you this because I care about you.

¡Escúchame! Te estoy diciendo esto porque me importas.

I hadn’t heard that.

No había oído eso.

She listens to music every day.

Escucha música todos los días.

That’s not what I heard.

Eso no es lo que oí.

She is afraid when she hears that.

Tiene miedo cuando oye eso.

All right, before our final quiz, let’s learn another whole verb, the verb Trabajar, which means “to work”. Here’s an example:

Yes, we’re going to work together.

Sí, vamos a trabajar juntos.

This verb is very easy to use, because it means basically the same thing that “work” means in English, and it’s conjugated exactly like Hablar. However, note that this verb refers specifically to labor; in English, we sometimes use “work” to mean that something is functioning, for example “my phone doesn’t work”. But you wouldn’t use Trabajar in those cases; there’s a different word for that. So keep in mind that you’ll use Trabajar specifically when you’re referring to doing some kind of work or labor.

There’s one other nuance to using Trabajar, and it has to do with talking about your profession. So see if you can tell what’s happening in this sentence:

I work as a doctor.

Trabajo de doctor.

So literally we have “I work of doctor”. In Spanish, when talking about your field of work, it’s very common to use de. I mean, this sentence COULD be translated as trabajo como doctor, but Trabajar and de get along really well together, so this is a good thing to practice. Also note that when talking about professions, you almost never use an article before the profession. You wouldn’t ever say trabajo de un doctor or trabajo como una doctora; you leave off the un or una.

All right, let’s go ahead and jump in and practice this verb.

She was working where I work now.

Ella trabajaba donde yo trabajo ahora.

Work! We have to do this today.

¡Trabaja! Tenemos que hacer esto hoy.

I wasn’t working that day.

No estaba trabajando ese día.

I was working there and now she works there.

Yo trabajaba ahí y ahora ella trabaja ahí.

I know you don’t want to work, but if you work now you can leave soon.

Sé que no quieres trabajar, pero si trabajas ahora te puedes ir pronto.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/137. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

Listen to me! Work and don’t do anything else!

¡Escúchame! ¡Trabaja y no hagas nada más!

Hey! I have the control now.

¡Oye! Yo tengo el control ahora.

I want them to listen to me so they can know what was the occurrence.

Quiero que me escuchen para que puedan saber cuál fue el hecho.

I want him to listen to me and that’s why I work so much.

Quiero que él me escuche y por eso trabajo tanto.

I haven’t heard anything, but maybe they will hear it.

No he oído nada, pero quizás ellos lo oigan.

(Formal) Listen! It’s important that you be here at nine in the evening.

¡Escuche! Es importante que usted esté aquí a las nueve de la noche.

Hey! That’s not fair, I didn’t hear it.

¡Oye! Eso no es justo, no lo oí.

The fact is that we had a deal.

El hecho es que teníamos un trato.

But you didn't say anything about the wait.

Pero no dijiste nada sobre la espera.

I’m going to listen to music with some friends.

Voy a escuchar música con unos amigos.

She doesn’t work here yet, but she wants to work here.

Aún no trabaja aquí, pero quiere trabajar aquí.

(Plural) Listen! That was our deal.

¡Escuchen! Ese era nuestro trato.

It’ll be fine, he never hears anything.

Estará bien, nunca oye nada.

Listen! Eight plus two equals ten, not nine.

¡Escucha! Ocho más dos es igual a diez, no nueve.

He heard the same thing that you hear every day.

Oyó la misma cosa que tú oyes todos los días.

(Plural) Hey! You can’t be in waiting, you have to be working.

¡Oigan! No pueden estar a la espera, tienen que estar trabajando.

That place looks like the place where you work.

Ese lugar se parece al lugar donde trabajas.

Maybe she’ll hear the door.

Quizás oiga la puerta.

In fact, four minus two equals two.

De hecho, cuatro menos dos es igual a dos.

He wasn’t there because, in fact, he was working.

No estaba ahí porque, de hecho, estaba trabajando.

She looks like her mom when she listens.

Se parece a su mamá cuando escucha.

He was working there, but I wasn’t working there.

Él trabajaba ahí, pero yo no trabajaba ahí.

(Formal) Hey! I don’t hear anything.

¡Oiga! No oigo nada.

I heard about what happened, are you ok?

Escuché lo que pasó, ¿estás bien?

Incidentally, in that last example, if you chose rather than escuché, you didn’t get it wrong; in Spanish, hearing about something can be either Oir or Escuchar. Either one is correct.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/137.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn some new adjectives, including the words for “easy”, “difficult”, and “possible”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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