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Quick answer
"Escuchar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to listen to", and "prestar atención" is an intransitive verb phrase which is often translated as "to pay attention". Learn more about the difference between "escuchar" and "prestar atención" below.
escuchar(
ehs
-
koo
-
chahr
)
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to pay attention to)
a. to listen to
Escucha al profesor siempre que te dé instrucciones.Always listen to the teacher when you are given instructions.
Ella suele escuchar jazz de camino al trabajo.She usually listens to jazz on her way to work.
2. (to discern)
Regionalism used in Latin America: all the countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Does not include Spain.
(Latin America)
a. to hear
Hola, ¿me escuchas?Hello, can you hear me?
3. (to heed)
a. to listen to
¿Me escucharás si te digo que no desesperes?Will you listen to me if I tell you not to panic?
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
4. (to pay attention)
a. to listen
Nunca escucha.He never listens.
escucharse
A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject performs an action on itself (e.g. Miguel se lava.).
5. (to hear)
a. to listen to oneself
A veces me escucho y no sé lo que digo.Sometimes I listen to myself and I don't know what I'm saying.
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prestar atención(
prehs
-
tahr
 
ah
-
tehn
-
syohn
)
An intransitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and does not require a direct object (e.g. Everybody please stand up.).
intransitive verb phrase
1. (general)
a. to pay attention
Es importante prestar atención a lo que comemos y a las calorías que consumimos.It's important to pay attention to what we eat and to the calories we consume.
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