Let's say there is a conversation being analysed, and the people in the conversation are being divided into two groups: The people who speak and the people who hear.

If the people who speak are called "speakers", will the people who hear be called "hearers"?

  • 1
    Idiot: Please, tell me and @teylyn, and @z7sg, if you were asking for everyday language or specialised terminology. If you mean the first one, then it means I'm wrong and I'll remove my downvote on teylyn. So, edit your question, please. Thanks.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 11:05
  • I'm not really sure, its used in analysis.
    – Thursagen
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 11:09
  • Yes, if this is a question about linguistics, please make that clear so it can be closed.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 11:22
  • It's used in my everyday conversation, but I'm not really sure if the word I'm using at the moment is correct.
    – Thursagen
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 11:25

3 Answers 3


I think the word you are after is listener in everyday terminology.

The speaker speaks to an audience. In the audience, you may find some very attentive listeners. Everybody in the room will hear the talk, so it might be argued that hearer is a possibility.

It depends on the interest of the audience member, though.

Hearing is something you cannot control. Your ears will pick up the sound and send it to your brain. So everyone who hears the sounds will be a hearer.

Listening, though, is something that you can control. You can decide to tune out and not pay attention, or you can decide to lap up every sound or word. If you are interested and follow the talk, you will probably describe yourself as a listener.

This also manifests in the set term avid listener. I'm not sure if such a construct exists for hearing.

  • 1
    You can also listen without hearing anything, if there's no noise. So maybe hearer (although not generally used in ordinary English) is more appropriate for some technical terminology. Commented May 31, 2011 at 12:08
  • @Third Idiot, in that same sense that teylyn describes you would have, natural division into, two groups: the people who speak and the people who listen
    – Unreason
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 12:16
  • 'audience' is actually the word I was looking for
    – Post Self
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 0:23

Edited Answer, see below.

Every time I've studied conversations patterns and rules of speaking, the other person has always been called either hearer or addressee. Here I'll quote an example from my notes:

"Speakers and hearers constantly adjust their internal registry of deictics to keep up with the conversation."


"Directives = Speech acts in which the words are aimed at making the hearer do something;"

I'm not really sure about listener, but honestly I can't recall using it.


Since I've been downvoted, I'll link a further reference which proves me right. The book, Speech acts: an essay in the philosophy of language, is written by John R. Searle, a rather known name in the Linguistics field and to whoever studied Linguistics in an academic setting.

Speech Acts are utterances that don't simply convey information, but can also "perform actions" such as "I hereby declare you company and wife." (This one, for example, is a Declaration according to Searle's classification of Speech Acts.

If you search words in that book, there are 34 entries for "hearer" and 0 entries for "listener".

  • @Aleanno, I must confess I've hardly ever heard the term "hearer" and when I come across it, it sounds simply wrong, never mind your notes. The NGRAM at ngrams.googlelabs.com/…> shows a clear dominance of "listener".
    – teylyn
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:37
  • @teylyn: I'm a Linguistics student, and hearer is used. Go to the Searle wikipedia's page, in case you don't know, he's a famous linguist. Now scroll to "Classifying illocutionary speech acts" and look at the DIRECTIVES. This shows that the NGRAM is not that reliable and your down-vote is wrong.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:42
  • @teylyn: read my edit.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:49
  • 1
    @Aleanno, I think there is a difference between a highly specilised text using techical terms/jargon and everyday language. It may well be that in the scientific context of linguistics, the term "hearer" is acceptable, but in common language, and that is what I believe Third Idiot is after, listener is much more appropriate and common. It's interesting to see that you let my answer stand at first, and only downvoted it when you thought I had downvoted yours. That's called petty revenge, right?
    – teylyn
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:53
  • 1
    I'm not going to downvote or anything but it looks like a linguistics answers to a question about English. A lay person does not understand hearer in this way, nor do they know what a 'Speech Act' is.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 10:56

The answers given answer the title question of 'hearing equivalent for “speaker”'.

However, the question is actually asked in reference to analysing a conversation. In that case, 'speakers' isn't really correct either. Those who speak in a conversation also plays the same listening role as those who do not speak.

In the context of research, the groups would likely be labelled 'speaking participants' and 'non-speaking participants'. In a less formal context, you would talk about 'the people who spoke' and 'the people who didn't speak'.

  • It is true that a participant in a genuine conversation plays both roles. However, one does not play both roles within the same narrow conversational move; at any particular moment in a conversation, one person is speaking and the other(s) is/are listening (unless the conversation has deteriorated and the participants are talking over each other). The question that the OP probably had in mind (but did not make very clear) is what terms to use when analysing an individual move within a conversation, rather than the conversation as a whole.
    – jsw29
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 16:25
  • @jsw29 The OP explicitly says 'people who speak', not 'person who is speaking'.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 19:07
  • indeed, which is why your answer is an apt answer to the question as formulated. My comment was merely trying to bring out what the OP may have been trying to ask, but hasn't articulated clearly.
    – jsw29
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 20:50

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