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 + + 聞こえる
[い]Adjective[く]+ 聞こえる
[な]Adjective + に + 聞こえる
Noun + に + 聞こえる
Noun + + 聞こえます
[い]Adjective[く]+ 聞こえます
[な]Adjective + に + 聞こえます
Noun + に + 聞こえます
Register Standard
使用域 一般
聞(き)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)’. 聞(き)こえる is an intransitive verb, and literally means ‘to give off sound’.
When using 聞(き)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 .
  • 車(くるま)音(おと)聞(き)こえる
    I can hear the sound of a car.
  • アニメ出(で)てく女(おんな)子(こ)声(こえ)可愛(かわい)く聞(き)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.
  • こう歌(うた)上手(じょうず)に聞(き)こえる
    If you sing like this, you will sound good.
  • 電車(でんしゃ)に聞(き)こえるけどあれ隣(となり)人(ひと)いびき
    It sounds like a train, but that is the neighbor’s snoring.
Fun Fact
The primary difference between 聞(き)こえる, and 聞(き)ける (the potential form of 聞(き)く), is that 聞(き)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, 聞(き)ける is used when the speaker is trying to concentrate on some specific sound, and refers to their ‘ability’ to hear it.
  • 静(しず)か部屋(へや)聞(き)こえる
    You can hear it if you are in a quiet room. (Without effort)
  • 静(しず)かな部屋(へや)にいると聞(き)ける
    If you are in a quiet room, you can hear it. (If you focus and try to hear the sound)
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'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
My neighbor Seki is too loud! Whenever he listens to music, I can hear it in my flat!
'The teacher is too quiet, so I cannot hear anything.'
Tae Kim Japanese Grammar Guide
page 126
Genki II 2nd Edition
page 83
[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
page 188
page 32