Speak and Talk (Intermediate)

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Tagged with: Intermediate Vocabulary, Frequently Confused Words

Speak and talk mean the same thing: express ideas and thoughts by words. They can be used interchangeably, but not always.

Speak means to give a speech, to talk to a public assembly formally.

Talk means to converse, to communicate with someone informally.


  • I speak to my boss.
  • I talk to my friends.

You can use prepositions to, with, about after both verbs.


I don't usually speak well.


She doesn't talk like I do.

speak to somebody

I need to speak to the principal.

talk to somebody

I want you to talk to me!

speak about something

The chairman is speaking about their plans.

talk about something

What are you talking about?

speak to somebody about something

He wants to speak to the class about the book.

talk to somebody about something

I wanted to talk to my friend about the problem.

Remember the following phrases and proverbs with speak:

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

speak up = speak louder 

frankly speaking

Sasha is speaking! (on the phone)

speak fluently, easy

speak the truth

speak for oneself = to speak about one’s own opinion/feeling

speak to the subject = speak about the topic

the facts speak for themselves = the fact speaks for itself

Actions speak louder than words.

First think, then speak.

Remember the following phrases and proverbs with talk:

talk back = answer rudely, reply with disrespect

talk sense, nonsense

talk to you later = farewell

talk something over – to discuss at some length

talk somebody into something/doing something = to persuade smb. to do smth.

talk somebody out of something/doing something

Great talkers are little doers.

Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear.

We can use either speak or talk in the following expressions, depending on whether the setting is formal or informal:

talk one-on-one or speak one-on-one

talk privately or speak privately

talk face-to-face or speak face-to-face

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