Grammar Info

N4 Lesson 4: 16/18


To be audible, To sound (like), (Can) hear, To be heard

聞こえる was originally a conjugation of 聞く、but nowadays it is treated as a standalone intransitive verb


Noun + + ()こえる
[い]Adjective[く]+ ()こえる
[な]Adjective + に + ()こえる
Noun + に + ()こえる


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About 聞こえる

()こえる is a verb that is often used to describe things that can be heard, or the way in which something is heard. Because of this, the most common translations of this verb are 'to be audible', or 'to sound like (A)'. ()こえる is an intransitive verb, and literally means 'to give off sound'.
When using ()こえる, (A) will always be followed by . (A) is considered to be the 'source' of the sound (a noun). However, the 'way that something sounds' will be marked adverbially. This means that an い-Adjective will be changed to its く form, and な-Adjectives/nouns will be followed by .
  • (くるま)(おと)()こえる
    I can hear the sound of a car.
  • アニメ()てく(おんな)()(こえ)可愛(かわい)()こえるけど声優(せいゆう)いつもおばさん
    Voices of girls that appear in anime sound cute, but the voice actor is always an old lady.
  • こう(うた)上手(じょうず)()こえる
    If you sing like this, you will sound good.
  • 電車(でんしゃ)()こえるけどあれ(となり)(ひと)いびき
    It sounds like a train, but that is the neighbor's snoring.
Fun Fact
The primary difference between ()こえる, and ()ける (the potential form of ()く), is that ()こえる is used to identify things that do not require the active concentration of the listener to be heard. In other words, ambient noise. However, ()ける is used when the speaker is trying to concentrate on some specific sound, and refers to their 'ability' to hear it.
  • (しず)部屋(へや)()こえる
    You can hear it if you are in a quiet room. (Without effort)
  • (しず)かな部屋(へや)にいると()ける
    If you are in a quiet room, you can hear it. (If you focus and try to hear the sound)


  • 西山(にしやま)さん()まれつき(みみ)()こえないんです。」

    'Nishiyama has been deaf since birth.'

    To make this sentence generally nicer, you can use 耳が不自由です 'to not have free use of your ears' instead.

  • (となり)せきくんうるさすぎる(かれ)音楽(おんがく)()ときいつもあたしアパート()こえるわ!

    My neighbor Seki is too loud! Whenever he listens to music, I can hear it in my flat!

  • 教師(きょうし)(こえ)(ちい)さすぎるから(なに)()こえないんだ。」

    'The teacher is too quiet, so I cannot hear anything.'

  • (そと)うるさいからテレビ(おと)よく()こえない。」

    'Since it is loud outside, I cannot hear the TV very well.'

  • (たき)(おと)すごく(おお)きくてここからでも()こえます!」

    'The sound of the waterfall is really loud, and we can hear it even from here!'

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聞こえる – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (6 in total)

  • bokudake


    About 4 months ago

    ‘I can’t hear anything inside this shop, but if I go upstairs to the lobby, I can hear you well on the phone.’

    The primary difference between ()こえる, and ()ける (the potential form of ()く), is that ()こえる is used to identify things that do not require the active concentration of the listener to be heard.

    I have some difficulty distinguishing the two in this example. I thought when you’re on the phone you’re activelly concentrating to hear the person you’re speaking with; it’s an intentional action, not random sound coming in. Not like the background sound of a creek for example which might be audible, but you’re not activelly trying to hear it.

  • nekoyama


    About 4 months ago

    The distinction is difficult to translate 1:1 to English but “audible” vs “can listen” is going in the right direction. When I’m on the phone with someone, or more realistically, in an online meeting, I might ask “Can you hear me?” in English. This would be “聞こえる?” too. I’m asking whether the sound safely makes it to the other end. I’m not asking if they can listen to me like they’d listen to music.

  • rexd


    About 1 day ago

    The grammar page says “Noun + が + 聞こえる”, but “今のノック____た?” dinged me for “が 聞こえ”. It just wanted “今のノック聞きこえた” Can someone help me wrap my brain around this one? I assumed ノック is a noun.

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