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Forums · General English Grammar & Vocabulary, Listening & Speaking · General English Grammar Questions
I have a question about English grammar. When do I use "talk" and when do I use "speak?" I know we "speak English" and we don't "talk English." Are there other times when "talk" and "speak" cannot be interchanged?
A humble American,
Approved answer (verified by fivejedjon)
That aside, "speak" and "talk" are often interchangeable, that's true. Nevertheless, "speak" is a bit more formal than "talk". The President speaks before Congress. I talk to my friends on the phone.
We say that someone gives a speech when it's more formal, gives a talk when it's less formal.
When speaking we don't expect to be interrupted, conversational style, as much as when we are talking. In the more formal world of medicine, we may be diagnosed with a disease which impedes our ability to speak. In the less formal world of everyday conversation, we may say we can't talk too long, there are other things we have to do.
Also informally we can say that we talked the night away (were up all night talking), but it would be odd to hear that someone spoke the night away!
In phrasal verbs there are distinct differences. "speak up" is to speak louder or to stand up for what you believe in. "talk up" is completely different. It means to talk about the advantages of something in order to sway opinion in its favor.
Others will no doubt be able to add to what I have listed here.
Anonymous:Wow! That's an awesome explanation. Thanks!
Anonymous:To speak is to express or relay a message. "I want to speak to you," is the same as, "I want to tell you something" A spoken message is a speech.
To talk is to converse with someone; it is an exchange of thoughts and ideas. "I want to talk to you," gives an expectation that the other person will contribute just as much to what is said.
Stacy -- a speech teacher
Anonymous:I THINK that normally one would also use 'speak' in the sense of an initial ordinary conscious utterance ('he was cut off just as he began to speak") and 'talk' when an individual begins to verbalize after a period of inability ("we were relieved she finally began to talk").
Anonymous:in the song - Simon And Garfunkel The Sound Of Silence -
it says "people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening", what does this bring us?
Anonymouswhat does this bring us?I think you mean: What does this mean?
It means the words are being said, but there is no emotion or understanding in the saying of them. Words are being heard, but there is no understanding or emotional reaction in the hearing of them.
In general, it is about people who go through the motions of life robotically, without feelings or understanding. It is about the lack of meaningful communication that characterizes the lives of many people.
The words "talking" and "speaking" are not being used literally here. The writers could just as easily have reversed the order and said "speaking without talking" and the metaphoric meaning would have been the same.
Anonymous:I agree with you, Stacy.
In reference to the Simon and Garfunkel example a few comments below, I believe that they were trying to say that even though people talk to each other, they are not necessarily speaking to each other. If no message is coming across, nothing is being expressed, then it's simply talking.
Think about it this way: if one is spewing incoherent words, one is talking but not speaking, because no message is being expressed.
Anonymous:I have no Idea what you talking 'bout? Is it better to use talk or speak in a school paragraph?
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