9th May 2018
Word Choice: Hear vs. Here
Spoken out loud the words “hear” and “here” sound identical, which may be why they’re often confused in writing. Unfortunately, on paper the difference is a bit more obvious! In this post, then, we’re looking at the differences between these words and how to tell them apart.
Hear (Listen To)
To “hear” something is to sense a sound (this is why we talk about having a sense of “hearing”):
I was in the forest, so I could hear the tree fall.
It can also mean “listen to” or “learn by being told,” such as when we receive news second hand:
I hear that trees fall silently if there’s nobody around.
We also see this word used in “Hear! Hear!” This is an old-fashioned phrase used to express approval of what someone is saying (as if you’re literally saying “Listen to this person!”).
Here (In This Place)
The word “here” can be a noun, an adverb, or even an adjective, but it always means “this place.” Typically, this is the location occupied by the speaker:
Why are we here in this forest anyway?
The tree will land here when it falls.
In both cases above, “here” is used to point to the immediate surroundings or a point nearby. Closeness is important for this word; if we were referring to something further away, we’d say “there.”
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In addition, “here” can indicate a point in time or within a process:
We’ll end the lesson here for today.
It can also be used to refer to the previous sentence or passage in writing:
Berkeley wrote that sense objects exist only when they are perceived. Here, we can see how he would have been interested in whether unobserved falling trees make a sound.
This makes “here” a useful word for linking sentences in a paragraph.
Hear or Here?
Mixing up these words in your writing can look bad. However, there’s an easy way to tell them apart: The one about listening contains the word “ear” (i.e., the thing we listen with). So, if you’re writing about sensing a sound or listening to someone, the correct word is “hear.” On the other hand, if you’re writing about a place or position, the word you need will be “here.” Remember:
Hear = Sense a sound or listen to
Here = This place or point
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