“I hear you” is an informal and fairly common expression that can be used in a positive or negative way. 

Here, I clarify how it can be used or what it can imply.


1.   “I hear you” is often positive.

More often than not, it is used positively. It shows understanding, sympathy or expresses one’s similar experience.

Other similar expressions include: “I understand you,” “I agree with you,” “I feel you,” and “I sympathise.”

  • I hear you. We’ve all had to go through a lot the past year.”
2.   “I heard you but…” can be considered positive or negative.

“I hear you” can also be used to tell someone that you understand their opinion, even though you disagree with it—with the addition of “but.”

This is like a shortened version of “I hear what you’re saying.”

While this is considered polite because you are acknowledging what the other person has said, it may come across as dismissive because it’s followed by “but,” and especially if you use the wrong tone or interrupt the other person.

  • I hear you but are you sure you want to move out so soon?”
  • “I think I should quit my job before I get burn…”
    • I hear what you’re saying but I think you should reconsider.”
3.   “I hear you” can be negative.

One might use “I hear you” to express impatience, particularly in response to what they perceive to be nagging. It can be particularly rude when used in the past tense.

  • “Don’t forget to buy milk and pick up the laundry.”
    • “Yes, yes, I hear you.”
  • “Remember to get some cards on the way home.”
    • I heard you the first time.”