I've been asking everybody I know about a verb that has been stuck on my mind, but I can't find the right word.

I'm looking for a verb for someone who listens with reluctance. For example, I'm talking about something that happened to me, but the listener simply agrees that everything I say is true. In other words, suppose someone is busy using the computer, not knowing that they're busy, I start telling them about something that happened to me; however, they don't stop me from talking so as not to hurt my feelings, nor do they ditch me. They nod their head and say for example, "Oh" or "Really?"

I'm looking for a verb to fill the blank:

Me: telling a story

Someone: "Oh"
Me: continuing the story

Someone: "really"/"nice" / or any meaningless response.

Me: If you're busy just tell me , you don't have to __________

Or the other way around:

Someone : telling a story
Me: I'm not actually listening, I'm just __________

  • You don't have to listen/respond, I'm just busy/occupied/trying to focus on something.
    – user140086
    Jan 4, 2016 at 3:37
  • How is this about anything but vocabulary or writing style, please? Apr 18, 2020 at 11:43
  • pretend listening / distracted listening / passive listening - Interrupting or fading out of the conversation when the speaker is speaking.
    – tblue
    Apr 24, 2020 at 14:48

5 Answers 5


How about this:

You don't have to humor me.



You don't have to be polite / I'm just being polite

(polite - courteous, behaving in a manner that is respectful or considerate of others; well-mannered (OED))

  • This would work but what if the recipient is someone in authority like OP's boss. Would it still be okay to say like that? specially for the 1st case.. Jan 4, 2016 at 7:55
  • Not a verb....the OP specifically mentions it several times.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 4, 2016 at 7:58
  • To be polite is a verb isn't it ?
    – Dan
    Jan 4, 2016 at 10:59


be listening with half an hear

listen with half an ear

: not give one’s full attention.

Example sentences:

Midori watched the room warily, only listening with half an ear as she scanned the crowd.

‘Oh, my, this is interesting,’ said Maria, who had been listening with half an ear until now.

As they walked off to start their shift, Janey was listening with half an ear to Debi's jabber.

Oxford Dictionaries

be half-listening

Chase seemed to be half-listening to the woman, answering in monosyllables—while Dixon was visibly lusting over him. (Dreams of a Dark Warrior)



The word you are looking for is an aspect of hearing called selective listening.

Hearing is a physiological process which requires only the proper functioning of the hearing apparatus, which includes the outer-, middle-, and inner ear. See the picture below.

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When sound is received at the inner ear, cochlear nerve fibers are stimulated and send electrical impulses to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe of the brain, where with the help of several feedback loops along the way, sound is divided into non-speech and speech components.

Non-speech elements consist of frequency, intensity, and sound location, whereas speech elements include phonemes or consonants, tone, semantics, and syntax (see here).

To make matters even more complicated, since the cochlear nerve does not terminate in the auditory cortex but extends to the cochlear nuclear complex in the brain stem, auditory information passes to a midbrain region, the inferior colliculus, and a forebrain region, the medial geniculate nucleus of the thalamus. Both regions send auditory information up to the primary auditory cortex.

When a person is simply hearing you, they are short-circuiting, so to speak, the more complex process of speech interpretation. We call that short-circuiting process selective listening. A teenager, for example, may hear his mother not once but several times asking him to take out the garbage, but because of selective listening the mother’s message does not get processed completely. Hence, the message is not acted upon, or obeyed.

Similarly, when a coworker or friend is yammering at you while you are doing something else which requires a fairly high level of cognitive functioning, you can choose to filter out the speech content and its meaning so as to be able to continue what you’re doing.

What the speaker who is being “tuned out” needs to do at that point is to get the listener’s full attention, and then with eye-to-eye directness arrange to talk at another time and/or place so that effective speaking and listening (i.e., communication) can take place.


pseudo-listening or pseudolistening

As defined in Wikipedia

Pseudo-listening is a type of non-listening that consists of appearing attentive in conversation while actually ignoring or only partially listening to the other speaker

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