Intermediate vocabulary exercise: tell, say, speak, talk


English vocabulary-building exercise for pre-intermediate / intermediate level.

In this exercise you will practise the difference between talk, speak, say and tell.


Instructions: Fill in the gap in the following sentences with talk, speak, say or tell in its correct form.



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Tell, say
We use: tell + somebody. I told David about it.
Did you tell him?
He told me (that) he was ill.
We use: say + clause. She said she was ill.
We use: tell + clause when we include a pronoun such as me, him, us, etc. She told me (that) she was ill.
We use: say + something + to somebody. She said hello to me.
We use tell when we are giving facts or information:
tell somebody (that) ...
tell somebody something
tell somebody about something
tell somebody who/when/where.
She told me (that) she was ill.
She told me the news.
Tell me about your new job.
He told me where it was.

Speak, talk
Speak and talk have similar meanings. They suggest that a person is using his or her voice, or that two or more people are having a discussion.
We say:
speak to somebody (about something)
talk to somebody (about something)
What are you talking about?
Who were you speaking to on the phone?
I was talking to Mark about cricket.
How old were you when you learned to speak?
We say: speak a language
talk a language
talk nonsense
speak nonsense
He speaks four languages.

Stop talking nonsense!
Speak to and talk to are used more often than speak with and talk with. I was talking to Tom yesterday.
Speak to is a little more formal than talk to, and is often used in polite requests. [on the phone] Hello, could I speak to Mr Jones, please?


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