Difference Between Speak and Talk

Speak vs Talk

Speak and Talk are two verbs that are easily confused in usage. They are in fact characterized by different usages though. British English stresses the use of ‘to’ together with the verb ‘speak’ or ‘talk’ as in the phrases ‘he speaks to’ and ‘she talks to’. On the other hand American English prefers the use of the preposition ‘with’ in the case of the verbs ‘speak’ and ‘talk’ as in the sentence ‘Can I speak with Robert?’

One of the main differences between speak and talk is that speak is more formal in usage and talk is more informal in usage. Thus the word ‘speech’ is also understood in the formal sense. Observe the two sentences given below:

1. I would like to speak to the student on the issue.

2. Can I talk to you for a few minutes before you leave?

In the first sentence you will find that the verb ‘speak’ is used in the formal way whereas in the second sentence the verb ‘talk’ is used in an informal way.

Another important difference between ‘speak’ and ‘talk’ is that the verb ‘talk’ gives the idea of conversation. On the other the verb ‘speak’ gives the idea of individual use of language.

1. He was unable to speak due to throat infection.

2. He gave a public speech last week.

3. When the lecture was over, people talked to one another.

In the first two sentences you get the idea of individual use of language by the usage of the verb ‘speak’. In the third sentence you get the idea of conversation by the usage of the verb ‘talk’.

Sometimes the verb ‘speak’ is used to imply one’s expertise of languages as in the sentence ‘He speaks ten languages fluently.’ It is important to know the difference between the two verbs ‘speak’ and ‘talk’.