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ESL forum > Ask for help > speak and talk    

speak and talk


speak and talk
Can anyone please explain to me the distinction of speak and talk?
Is it "May I speak to you, or May I talk to you". She speaks too fast or she talks too fast? I know that we say, She speaks English not talks English. But can you please explain the distiction? When to use speak and talk?

17 Mar 2009      



You can find very some clear and good explanations about SPEAK AND SAY OR TELL IN MY WORKSHEET I DID.

Have a look here:




17 Mar 2009     


Well, THAT is not very helpful... advertising ones worksheet instead of simply answering Rach īs question. Confused

Speak and talk are very similar - speak also means "discuss" (also, it could be almost like "lecturing" someone...)

is more "formal" at times.

You speak with a teacher, your boss, etc. It implies a seriousness to the conversation.

They spoke about the accident to the kids. - Implies that they are having a discussion or are lecturing them about whatever.

is more informal, used in every day type English, it doesn īt imply "seriousness" (necessarily).

Pat talks to his friends on the phone.

They were talking about going to Paris for the summer.

They talked for hours about the accident with the kids. - means that they aren īt lecturing, they are talking informally about the situation.

Now, if you add a "May or Can I" before either it means basically the same thing... a serious thing is probably meant/need to be discussed by that person.

If you have any questions, give me a shout! Smile

17 Mar 2009     

Mar (itxasobcn)

Suzylima, if you want to give grammar explanations you īre welcome.
If you want to advertise your own worksheets, do it privately, not on the forum.
You know the rules.
Have a nice day!

17 Mar 2009     


Wow thanks Zora that helped a lot. Nice explanation.
I really like this site. I īm thankful to have found this.
Thanks again and more power!

17 Mar 2009     

Anna P

And the difference between īspeak to ī and īspeak with ī?


17 Mar 2009     


I īd also add the following distinction:
The verb to speak means "speak" in the sense of make sounds within an intelligible language.

The verb to talk means "talk" within the meaning of a conversation.

17 Mar 2009     


Usually, and I say "usually" the difference between "speak to" and "speak with" is:

Speak to is more for when you are "talking to a person"...

She is speaking to Tom īs mothers about his marks. - probably means she is telling his mom about his marks or trying to find out why they are so bad or so good.

Speak with is more for a discussion type conversation...

She is speaking with Tom īs mother about his marks. - means she is discussing the marks with the mother - who most likely knows about them or doesnīt know, but the discussion is there and they are trying to solve the sitution..

17 Mar 2009     

alien boy

"speak to"implies a one way discussion.

"speak with" implies bi or multi-input discussion.

or that īs the impression I get!

17 Mar 2009     


Both means to communicate by using your voice.

to speak is a lonely act = somebody speaks and others listen

to talk implies exchange = two or more changing ideas, thoughts, etc

"The lecturer was speaking when he had to stop to beg silence as there were some people talking."

As regards the use of to or with, you will find both of them used with both prepositions in American English, but  in British English  you talk to sb about sth and NOT with

17 Mar 2009     

alien boy

From Swan īs Practical English Usage, 3rd ed (please note that it is British English with some additional notation about American English):

Some AmE prepositional uses and phrasal verb forms are moving into BrE.
Can I speak with Cathy? (instead of ... speak to ... )

553 speak and talk

1 little difference
There is little difference between speak and talk. In certain situations one or the other is preferred, but they are usually both possible.

2 formality
Talk is the more usual word for informal communication.

When she walked into the room everybody stopped talking.
Could I talk to you about the football match for a few minutes?

Speak is often used for communication in more serious or formal situations.
I īll have to speak to that boy - he īs getting very lazy.
They had a row last week, and now they īre not speaking to one another.
After she had finished reading the letter, nobody spoke.

3 lectures etc
Talk is often used for the act of giving an informal lecture (a talk); speak is preferred for more formal lectures, sermons etc. Compare:
This is Patrick Alien, who īs going to talk to us about gardening.
This is Professor Rosalind Bouien, who is going to speak to us on recent
developments in low-temperature physics.
The Pope spoke to the crowd for seventy minutes about world peace.

4 languages
Speak is the usual word to refer to knowledge and use of languages, and to the
physical ability to speak.
She speaks three languages fluently.
We spoke French so that the children wouldn īt understand.
His throat operation has left him unable to speak.

5 other cases
One usually asks to speak to somebody on the phone (AmEalso speak with).
Hello. Could I speak to Karen, please?

Talk is used before sense, nonsense and other words with similar meanings.
You īre talking complete nonsense, as usual. (NOT You īre speaking complete nonsense ... )


17 Mar 2009     

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