So, why isn’t hear an action verb, like its sensory siblings? I can write, “That feels disgusting” and substitute feels with looks, smells, and tastes, but “That hears disgusting” doesn’t make sense; we replace hears with sounds in such constructions.” Why is this so?

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    Hear is an action verb, like see, and as such they take objects. For the description of a sensation, you need stative verbs of sensation, like the corresponding sound and look.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 7:49
  • 1
    You don't say "You see sad." for "You look sad:"
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 7:53
  • 5
    Dealt with comprehensively by John Lawler at "Taste" is to "flavor" as "touch" and "sight" are to what? Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 9:32

2 Answers 2


For some of the senses the same word can be used in both directions, for example "I had to feel my surroundings with my hands, because it was so dark". "The coat feels very warm and soft". "I smell some rotten beef in the fridge". "The beef in the fridge smells rotten".

That's not the case with sounds. "I hear the music playing". "The music sounds very loud". Different words are being used.

With your eyesight, there are different words that can be used. "I see my friend arriving". "I look at my friend". But "my friend looks very tired", not "my friend sees very tired".


"That hears disgusting" [sic] is better said and written as that sounds disgusting. My take on this is that it's just matter of syntax. The OP sounds (pun intended) clunky to me.

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