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English Grammar and Writing Tips:
     Using "Speak" and "Talk" Correctly

Grammar <<< English Grammar and Writing Tips <<< Using "Speak" and "Talk"


Speak

:: speak to somebody; speak about something/somebody

(Remember that "speak" suggests a more formal level of communication than "talk")

- the speaker does not know you very well

I need to speak to you. (correct)

- in a formal language, for example at work

I need to speak to your colleague. (correct)

- what the person has to say is important/serious

Barbara's former husband wants to speak with her. (correct)

- Do you know Jane? - Not to speak to. (= only by sight) (correct)

I saw Peter at the restaurant last night but we didn't speak. (correct)
I saw Peter at the restaurant last night but we didn't talk. (correct)

Can I speak with you for a minute? (correct) (especially North American English) speak (with somebody) (about something/somebody)

:: at the beginning of a telephone conversation

- Can I speak to Susan? - Susan speaking. (correct)

:: speak of/about something/somebody to mention or describe something/somebody

Please speak more slowly. (correct)
Please talk more slowly. (incorrect!)

:: speak of/about something/somebody to mention or describe something/somebody

They still speak about their adventure in Mexico. (correct)
They still talk about their adventure in Mexico. (correct)

:: speak something to be able to use a particular language

My sister speaks several languages. (correct)
My sister talks several languages. (incorrect!)

:: to make a speech to an audience (to speak in public, to speak on the radio, to speak at a conference, etc.)

Professor Davidson is invited to speak at a conference in London next week. (correct)
Professor Davidson is invited to talk at a conference in London next week. (incorrect!)

Talk

:: We use"talk" in a more casual, informal situations; in conversations between two or more people:

Can I talk with you? (correct)
Can I talk to you? (correct)

When the teacher walked into the classroom everybody stopped talking. (correct)
When the teacher walked into the classroom everybody stopped speaking. (incorrect)

:: If we add a preposition “about” after "talk", we can add some more details. It is more specific:

Let's talk about our journey next month. (correct)
Let's speak about our journey next month. (incorrect)

:: you talk to someone to tell them about your problems or the things that are worrying you:

You should talk to your parents about the incident at school. (correct!)

Remember that it is possible to say:

speak to someone about someone/something
talk to someone about someone/something

But some American speakers say:

speak with someone about someone/something
talk with someone about someone/something





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