Speak, talk – differences

When do we use speak and when do we use talk? Here are the differences:

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?

For more examples of speak/talk, see Stuart’s article Confusing words: speak, talk

Practise ‘speak’ vs. ‘talk’ in an exercise.


  1. Say, tell, talk, speak… What’s the difference? | angloXchange - August 18, 2012, 4:48 pm Reply

    […] Source: speakspeak.com […]

  2. Dave Groona - November 30, 2015, 9:23 am Reply

    He speaks nonsense is correct. He is speaking nonsense is also correct. It is a matter of formality not grammar.

    In fact;
    He is talking French / He talks French all the time / He always talks about French
    He is speaking French / He speaks French all the time / He always speaks about French

    Again, this is a matter of formal / informal discussion.

  3. Rory - April 15, 2016, 8:47 pm Reply

    I was taught that we speak ‘with’ someone (speaking being 2 way conversation between equals) and talk ‘to’ someone (talking being one way verbalisation, as a headmaster would talk to a student). It could be the other way round, but definitely remember one of them is better to use with ‘with’ and the other with ‘to’. ‘Talking to’ someone implies a superiority of the person doing the talking. Speaking with someone implies an equal status worthy of a conversation.

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