Speak, Talk, + Say/tell

Atualizado: 14 de out.

These four verbs ‘speak, talk, say, and tell’, have specific uses in the English language and some students have asked me to clarify when and how to use these action words. So, today’s blog touches on the subject.

Speak usually only focuses on the person who is producing the words such as, ‘he spoke about the importance of taking exercise and having a good diet, or I’m going to speak about verb usage, or John speaks to his staff at the office every morning’.


Infinitive / Present / Past

To speak / speak / spoke



Talk focuses on a speaker and at least one listener, and can mean 'have a conversation'. An example of this would be:

1. The news commentator is going to talk about terrorism in the Middle East.

2. They talked about relationships all night long.

3. If we met every day, we could talk a lot.


Infinitive / Present / Past

To talk / talk / talked


Say is used for exact quotes, and when the receiver isn't mentioned in the sentence:

1. “Good morning,” said the woman behind the counter.

2. I just stopped by to say hello.

3. I said three words before he interrupted me again.


Infinitive / Present / Past

To say / say / said


It can also be used to make statements such as, ‘say you are tired and cannot go, or say no I’m not hungry’. We also say: hello and goodbye, please and thank you, happy birthday and congratulations.


Another verb that confuses students is the verb ‘to tell’, which can be used ‘to tell the time’, or ‘mummy, can you please tell me a story’, or ‘I will tell you what to do because I am your father’. “If I say, go to bed! It is time for you to go to bed to sleep.”


Written by Carl Boniface


P.S. If you want to practice your spoken English with me, don't be shy. You can reach me by WhatsApp from anywhere in the world. Let's set up online classes. +55-11-97607-6871


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