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While he ………… his young brother, he felt something wrong in his speech.

  • was hearing
  • hears
  • is hearing
  • heard

This sentence was discussed in an Egyptian Facebook group for English Teachers. Their opinions were like that:

  1. Some answered (heard)
  2. Some answered (was hearing)

Those who answered (heard) justify their answer that (hear) cannot be in progressive.

But the second group provided a proof:

  • I thought I was hearing things. (Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English)
  • That was the music that I was hearing every day.

( https://context.reverso.net/الترجمة/الإنجليزية-العربية/i+was+hearing)

  1. Others said that the answer should be (was listening).

 

What about you?

Original Post

Hi, Ceedhanna,

@ceedhanna posted:

While he ………… his young brother, he felt something wrong in his speech.

  • was hearing
  • hears
  • is hearing
  • heard

This sentence was discussed in an Egyptian Facebook group for English Teachers. Their opinions were like that:

  1. Some answered (heard)
  2. Some answered (was hearing)

Those who answered (heard) justify their answer that (hear) cannot be in progressive.

But the second group provided a proof:

  • I thought I was hearing things. (Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English)
  • That was the music that I was hearing every day.

( https://context.reverso.net/الترجمة/الإنجليزية-العربية/i+was+hearing)

  1. Others said that the answer should be (was listening).

 

What about you?

It is well-known that 'hear' isn't usually used in the progressive form. So, when can it be used in the progressive?

  1. A Practical English Grammar says that 'hear' can be used in the progressive when it means 'listen formally to' (complaints / evidence etc.).

- The court is hearing evidence this afternoon.

The book adds that 'hear' meaning 'receive news or letters' can also be used in the progressive form but only in the present perfect and future:

- I've been hearing all about your accident.

- You'll be hearing about the new scheme at our next meeting.

 2. Longman English Grammar says some stative verbs can have progressive forms with always, etc.:

- I'm always hearing strange stories about him.

(That justifies the use of 'was hearing' in your last example, by the way.)

3. Quirk has another important view, page 205, when he mentions that there is an exceptional use of 'see' and 'hear' with the progressive (focusing on the process of perception) in:

A: Did you hear a bell ring just then?

B: No, I can't hear a thing.

A: There it goes again! I am hearing it now. / I can hear it now.

4. LDOCE says that 'to be hearing things' means to imagine you can hear a sound when really there is no sound. Of course that doesn't apply to your question above and those who tried to justify their choice of 'was hearing' based on this definition are wrong.

Now, let's get back to your question. If I were forced to choose one of the four choices you have provided, I'd go with 'was hearing' depending on Quirk's opinion (NO: 3). Personally, I see that you need an action verb here, so the best and the most logical answer is 'was listening', but, unfortunately, it isn't provided above.

Last edited by ahmed_btm

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