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Difference Between Talk and Speak

Talk vs Speak

There are many words in the English language that are synonymous and are usually used interchangeably. Two of these are the words “talk” and “speak.”

Both words pertain to the art of communicating our ideas, to verbalize words, or to express sounds. However, “talk” is more often used than the word “speak,” and the proposition “to” is more frequently used than “with.” An example for this is: “He wants to talk to you,” although “He wants to speak to you” may also be said.

If we are to draw a line between them, the major difference between the two is that “speak” is favored in more formal occasions and is commonly used by a single person addressing a group of people. “Talk,” on the other hand, is not really for formal usage, and in most cases it implies dialogue between two people, maybe more. One example of this is: “The pupils stopped talking when the Prefect of Discipline started to speak.” Another example is: “He is a fan of talking to guests directly, but he is not used to speaking in front of a large crowd.”

These verbs are not connected with a direct object (intransitive), but either a preposition (prepositions: about, to, with, for, etc.) or an adverbial modifier. Adverbial modifiers usually follow “talk” or “speak.”

It is good to remember the following phrases when using “talk”: talk back; talk sense, nonsense; talk to you later; talk something over; great talkers are little doers; now he is talking; talking about reality; talk less, act more.

It would also be good to remember these phrases when using “speak”: speak many languages (speak English, German, etc.); speak up; frankly speaking; Francis is speaking with Kim on the phone; speak fluently, easy; speak for oneself; speaking of the devil; first think, then speak; speak only of the truth.

There are instances when both “speak” and “talk” can be used for both formal and informal situations. You can use the phrases: speak one on one or talk one on one. This is also a common use of words: talk personally or speak personally. Another example is: talk in secret or speak in secret.

To peg these concepts to the ground, let’s cite situations in our daily experiences. Imagine a situation when someone is giving a speech to an audience, and in that audience two children are having a conversation and not listening to the speech. This is irritating the rest of the audience. We can simply say: While the minister was speaking at the meeting, two children were told to be quiet because they were talking to one another and making it difficult for people to concentrate.


1. “Talk” is most often used compared to “speak.”
2. There may always be an exception to every rule. However, let us take note that the bottom line is that “speak” is used for formal address while “talk” is usually used for an informal setting.
3. A talker makes the conversation chummy or interesting while a good speaker does well when conversing to a group of people as a whole.

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  1. I work in Mexico, and I teach English literature to high school students. I once saw a giant sign painted on a wall that said, “Learn how to talk English”. That should have been, “Learn how to speak English.” I laughed when I saw “learn how to talk English”. I would never send a friend or family member to such a place! I know “speak” is much better than “talk” in that situation, but I have not been able to clearly define why. This website did not help.

  2. Can I just say what a reduction to seek out somebody who truly knows what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know tips on how to convey a difficulty to mild and make it important. Extra folks need to learn this and perceive this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you positively have the gift.

  3. I want more tips for speaking English

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