Speak and Talk (Advanced)

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Tagged with: Frequently Confused Words, Advanced Vocabulary

Both speak and talk have the same meaning: to communicate ideas and thoughts by words, to utter words or articulate sounds.

They can be used interchangeably. However, there are some differences:

Speak is preferred on more official occasions and is usually used when one person addresses a group.

Talk is less formal and in most cases suggests conversation between two or more persons.

  • She loves talking to people, but she doesn’t like speaking in public.

Both these verbs are usually intransitive (they don’t have a direct object after them). They are generally followed by a preposition (to/with, about, for) or by some adverbial modifier (much, less, in a quiet voice, a long time, etc.)

Talk is used more frequently than speak. Preposition to is more frequent than with.

Also, compare the nouns speaker and talker:

  • A good talker is a person whose conversation is interesting.
  • A good speaker is a person who is good at giving speeches to audiences.

Remember the following phrases and proverbs with talk:

talk back

talk sense, nonsense, business, politics, baseball, etc.

talk bad, dirty, trash

talk shop = discuss work related issues

talk peace

talk something over/through

talk somebody into something/doing something

talk somebody out of something/doing something

talk nineteen to the dozen

talk oneself hoarse

talk through one’s hat

talk big = show off, boast

talk one’s head off = to talk nonsense, brag, show off

talk turkey = talk about business, seriously

talk down = speak in a condescending manner, as if to a child

talk out = discuss until everything is agreed on, settled

talk like a Dutch uncle

TTYL = talk to you later (internet chat)

All talk and no trousers = synonym – all talk and no action

Now you are talking! (informal)

Great talkers are little doers.

Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear.

Remember the following phrases and proverbs with speak:

speak a language (speak English, speak Chinese, etc.)

so to speak = one can say, as it were

speak up = speak louder

frankly, generally, strictly, roughly speaking

legally speaking

roughly speaking

speak the truth

speak fluently, easy

speak volumes = speak a lot

speak ill/evil of somebody

speak the word – express one’s wish

speak for oneself – to speak about one’s own opinion/feelings

speak one’s mind

speak to the subject – speak on the topic

the facts speak for themselves = the fact speaks for itself

this speaks him generous

nothing to speak of

the tongue speaks

speak against time

speak with a forked tongue = speak dishonestly, lie, make false promises

be on speaking terms with somebody

speak with plum in the mouth - showing that someone is from a very high social group.

Sasha is speaking. (on the phone)

Actions speak louder than words

When guns speak it is too late to argue.

A liar isn’t believed when he speaks the truth.

A truer word was never spoken.

A word spoken is past recalling.

Many speak much who cannot speak well.

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