Speak vs. Talk

Difference Between Speak and Talk

There is little difference between speak and talk. In fact, in most situations they are both possible.


To refer to conversational exchanges we usually use talk.

  • When the teacher walked into the classroom, the students stopped talking.
  • Can I talk to the manager?

Note that speak is the usual word to refer to one-way communication. It is more formal than talk.

  • They are no longer on good terms. In fact, they have stopped speaking to one another. (More formal than ‘They have stopped talking to one another.)

We often use talk to refer to the act of giving an informal lecture. Speak is used for more formal lectures or sermons.


  • This is Ms Annie Sullivan, who is going to talk to us about the need to develop good table manners. (Informal or less serious lecture)
  • This is Doctor Annie Sullivan, who is going to speak to us on recent developments in molecular biology. (Formal lecture)

Note that speak is the usual word to refer to a person’s physical ability to speak a language.

  • She speaks five languages fluently. (NOT She talks five languages fluently.)

Note that we usually use talk before sense, nonsense and other words with similar meanings.

  • Don’t talk nonsense. (NOT Don’t speak nonsense.)

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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