What Types of Listening are There? 

Types of Listening

What’s Listening?

Listening is one of the four main language skills. Listening is a receptive or passive skill because you don’t need to produce language in order to use your listening skills.

Types of Listening

The primary purposes of listening are:

  1. information-gathering
  2. pleasure
  3. empathy
  4. assessment
  5. criticism

The Types of Listening we engage in a regular basis can be categorized as follows:

#1 Listening For Gist: This type of listening refers to the situations in which we listen with the intention of knowing the general idea of what’s being said.

#2 Listening for Specific Information: This refers to occassions in which we don’t have to understand everything that’s being said, but only a very specific part

#3 Listening in Detail: This refers to the type of listening we do in which we can’t afford to ignore anything because we don’t exactly what information of the listening passage will be necessary to complete the task

#4 Inferential Listening: This refers to the type of listening in which we have to reach conclusions based on the information we hear.

Types of Listening Texts

Types of Listening

One way of classifying texts that we hear is to consider two basic categories:

  • Monologues: where one person does all or most of the talking
  • Dialogues:  where two or more people are talking together

Scheme: These monologues or dialogues might be planned or unplanned. For example, when a student gives an oral presentation at the university, this is an example of a planned monologue. If someone meets an old school friend in the park by accident, then their conversation is an example of an unplanned dialogue.

View:  Another basic distinction to consider is whether we can see the person who is listening to us or not. For example, a conversation with someone on the telephone is either planned or unplanned dialogue with someone unseen. Deprived of any clues from body language, we need to listen carefully to intonation and word choice to be able to judge the other person’s emotions. 

Interactivity: Another subcategory is interactional and transactional listening. Interactional is the kind of social communication that we frequently carry out when we talk to our friends. Transactional refers to trying to obtain or exchange information. So if you listen to someone giving instructions about how to use a new computer program, this is a mainly transactional listening.

Familiarity:  Sometimes, we listen to familiar topics. In this case, we don’t have to listen so carefully to every word. If we are listening to someone talking about an unfamiliar topic then we will have to pay much more attention.


It is important to be able to distinguish between these different types of listening because students may face different kinds of difficulties with different sorts of listening texts. 

When we have a clear understanding of the difficulties that students face, we are able to choose a suitable range of techniques to help them.

How to Find the Main Idea

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