Speak and talk are synonyms, but we use them differently. Learn the difference with Lingolia’s list of examples and collocations, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

A: Hello, can I speak to Max?

B: Speaking.

A: Hi Max, it’s Emilio. I want to talk to you about the meeting next week. The customers are French and they can’t speak English. We need someone who can speak French, otherwise we won’t be able to talk to them.

B: No problem. I’ll speak to boss about it.

A: Thanks, bye.



Speak is more formal than talk. We use it in situations that are more formal and with particular expressions.

  • say words, have a formal converstaion, discuss something serious, talk to someone you don’t know
I will speak to my boss about it.
  • hold a formal lecture for a group of people
The CEO will speak at next months annual general meeting
  • know/be able to use a language
The customers can’t speak English.
We need someone who speaks French.
  • on the telephone
Hello, can I speak to Max?
Yes, speaking. (Max is speaking)


Talk is less formal than speak. We use talk in informal situaltions and in specific expressions.

  • say words, have an informal conversation with someone you don’t know, talk with friends
Can I talk to you for a few minutes?
  • give an informal lecture
Julia will be talking about different learning styles.
  • discuss something (talk + noun)
Let’s talk business/money/travel arrangements

Speak and Talk with Preopositions

We use the propositions to, with and about with speak and talk. We speak and talk to/with someone and speak and talk about someone/something.

I spoke/talked to my manager yesterday.

The manager and I had a conversation

We spoke/talked about a promotion.

The promotion is the topic of conversation.

Phrasal Verbs with Speak

There are quite a few phrasal verbs and idioms with speak, we’ve listed some of the most important ones here.

  • speak for oneself/someone = communicate one’s or someone else’s ideas or opinions
  • speaking of something = connected to the topic of conversation (idiom)
  • speak out = express your opinion about a law or official plan publicly
  • speak up = speak more loudly

Phrasal Verbs with Talk

There are plenty of Phrasal verbs with talk. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • talk someone into/out of something = convince someone or yourself to do/not to do someting
  • talk at someone = talk to someone without letting them reply or speak (a one sided conversation)
  • talk back = reply to someone rudely (usually used with children)
  • talk something down = say that something is not as important as it is
  • talk something up = say that soemthing is more important/better than it is
  • talk someone down = convince someone they are incorrect, or that they shouldn’t act on something
  • talk down to someone = talk to someone as if you are better and smarter than them
  • talk something out/over/through = discuss the details of something
  • talk somebody round/around = convince someone to change their mind
  • talk someone through something = explain something to someone