"Entendre" or "Écouter" ? Never mix them up again !

I try to listen to you as much as possible and respond to what is most problematic in your learning of French.

Recently, in an Instagram story, I was asked to explain the difference between the verb "écouter" and "entendre".

I then created a post to explain the difference between these two verbs, because no they don't mean the same thing.

I also thought it would also be useful for you, dearest visitor of this blog.

So here's the difference between the verbs "entendre" and "écouter" and a tip to never confuse them again.


#What does the verb "entendre" mean in French ?

Entendre is a passive attitude requiring no effort on our part. What on entend is not always precise in the mind. On entend in a natural way without realizing it.

Entendre is to perceive a sound through the sense of hearing. When you are in a park, vous entendez the sound of your footsteps on the ground, vous entendez birds singing, vous entendez the laughter of children having fun, etc.


J'ai entendu un drôle de bruit dans le salon. (I heard a weird noise in the living room.)

→ As-tu entendu le chat miauler ? (Did you hear the cat meow?)

→ Je n'ai pas entendu l'alarme sonner. (I didn't hear the alarm go off.)


GIF algorithme


#What does the verb "écouter" mean in French ?

On the contrary of "entendre", "écouter" is an active action, it depends on your will. You stretch out your ear and concentrate pour écouter.

When on écoute, it's something specific that we wish to perceive. When on écoute we pay attention to what on entend, we apply ourselves to entendre.

For example, when you are in French class : vous écoutez to your teacher, vous écoutez to the oral comprehension that he or she proposes to you in order to carry out an exercise, etc.

→ J'écoute les conseils qu'ils donnent au journal télévisé. (I listen to the advice they give on the news.)

→ J'écoute de la musique en travaillant. (I listen to music while I work.)

→ Est-ce que tu as écouté le dernier podcast d'Ohlala French Course ?  (Have you listened to the latest Ohlala French Course podcast ?)


GIF algorithme


#How do you know whether to use "entendre" or "écouter" ?

J'entends ou j'écoute le chant des oiseaux ? (Do I hear or listen to birdsong ?)

Both are possible. It's up to you to see if :

  • Are you concentrating on listening to the birdsong ? Is that something you do on purpose, with a clear conscience ? Then you must use the verb "écouter" : J'écoute le chant des oiseaux.
  • Or on the contrary, do you perceive the birdsong while doing something else or without paying attention to it ? Then you must use the verb "entendre" : J'entends le chant des oiseaux.


#My method for distinguishing between the verb "entendre" and the verb "écouter" :

I suggest a quote to help you remember the difference between these two verbs :

"Entendre ne veut pas dire écouter, car l'ouïe est un sens mais l'écoute est un art."

*⁣To hear is not to listen, hearing is a sense, but listening is an art*


You will never mix up again the verb "entendre" with the verb "écouter".

To be sure, test yourself below.
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See you soon for new adventures, in French of course ! 🇫🇷