It all started with a big bang...

Or a strum of a guitar, or a perfect lyric. We all have that certain song that makes us  get up and dance. Music is the international language that can bring people together. Whether it is rock, reggaeton, rap, country, opera or classical music, music can break all barriers.

From the beginning of time, records show that music has been a part of human interaction. Music can be a wonderful way to learn a language.  Music can be a great introduction to different cultures. Music can connect us to different people, feelings, and ideas. 

In this post, we will take a look at some important verbs, idioms, and phrasal verbs related to music as well as suggest several songs that are great for practicing English!

To listen vs. To hear

To listen is to actively use our ears to receive a sound. It is on purpose and we are in charge. Example: I listened to the new J Balvin album and it was amazing!

To hear is when sound comes to our ears without our control and we are not in charge. Example: I hear loud music from our neighbor’s house every night. 

Note: When listening to live music, a concert, for example, we use the verb to see. Example: I’ve seen the Rolling Stones five times. 

In the negative form:

Can’t hear - ears are not receiving the sound. Example: From Pink Floyd song - Comfortably Numb, “Your lips move but I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Can’t listen - decide not to receive the sound. Example: From the Neon Tees song title - “Songs I can’t listen to because of you”. 

Music can share a story

For the past 6 months I have loved learning about Chile. One of my favorite lessons about Chile is from the song: They Dance Alone by Sting (about the Chilean women’s peaceful protest during the 1970’s). There are many songs that share the history of various countries. These are some of my favorite: Pride by U2 (about Martin Luther King), Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival (about the USA involvement in the the war in Vietnam),   Don’t Cry for me Argentina, Madonna’s version by Andrew Lloyd Weber (about Evita Peron). 

Musical idioms - that have nothing to do with music:


  • He beats to his own drum - He does what he wants - very often not the norm 

  • Wet ones whistle - to have a drink

  • He’s singing  to a different tune - He’s changed his opinion                                                                           

  • It doesn’t ring a bell -can not remember/ It rings a bell - it is familiar 

  • Like a broken record -  something or someone that repeats

  • Face the music -  accepting reality 

  • Fit  as a fiddle - healthy

  • Music to my ears - good news

Songs to Practice

A few of my favorite English speaking songs that are easy to understand and are helpful for those learning English:

Yesterday by the Beatles

We Can Work it Out by the Beatles

Somebody to Love by Queen

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

Shake it off by Taylor Swift

This Love by Maroon 5

Phrasal Verbs:

Listen up - pay attention

Heard of - to know

Heard from - correspondence for another person

Listen for - to pay attention to a sound

I hear you - I understand

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Written by: Tracey Griffith