I often see that people write ‘I hear that…’ meaning the past. For example:

I hear that Sally has won in lottery.

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

Why is it used? Shouldn’t be ‘I heard that…’ when we mean the past?


'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 '11 at 22:09

I asked to a friend of mine, who lives in USA, and she explained me that the difference between the sentences is:

  • I hear that Sally has won the lottery. Sally recently won the lottery.
  • I heard that Sally has won the lottery. Sally won the lottery in the past.
  • I don't agree that this distinction can be made. Hear/Heard don't really differentiate in terms of recency to me. – ghoppe Jan 31 '11 at 2:22
  • 1
    Agreed. The time when Sally won the lottery is dictated by the main verb in her clause: 'Sally has won the lottery' - which suggests that her win was recent. If we wanted her win to be more distant in time, we'd use 'Sally won the lottery'. – gpr Jan 31 '11 at 4:54

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