I often see that people write:

I hear that …

to refer to a past event/action. For example:

I hear that Sally has won the lottery.

(If I remember correctly it is in English Grammar in Use by Cambridge University)

Why is it used so? Shouldn’t it be like:

I heard that …

since it refers to the past?

3 Answers 3


'I heard' is past tense and indeed means that you had heard something previously.

'I hear' is different. It is present tense of course, but it is more figurative in the context you are talking about. It means something along the lines of 'The rumour is', not that you are literally hearing something.


To me, ElandilTheTall is right, I hear that is more figurative. But I also think it can imply common knowledge.

When you say I heard that you probably have a specific source that told you about it in mind. A friend, a newspaper, the internet, etc.

When you say I hear that you imply that it's common knowledge, although this is likely the first time you've talked about it, you assume either that the person you are speaking to already knows about it, or the person you are speaking to should already know about it.


So I hear and So I've heard are same in spoken English. They both are used to say that you have been told something or you already know it.

There's a nasty infection going round, so I hear/heard.

  • As ElendilTheTall has said in his answer, "I hear" carries a slightly different meaning to "I heard" -- less literal, more figurative.
    – AAT
    Jan 30, 2011 at 22:09

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