SPEAK and TALK are almost synonymous and are generally interchangeable except in fixed expressions.

Remember that the verb speak tends to be used in more formal or one-sided situations. Unfortunately, there is no simple or easy rule to follow. But there are a number of fixed expressions for both verbs.

Always use SPEAK in these fixed expressions:

  •     Speak a language—(e.g. French, English, etc.)
  •     Speak for someone—voice what another person thinks
  •     Speak now or forever hold your peace—this is your last chance to say something
  •     Speak your mind—say what you really think
  •     Speak out (about something)—voice your opinion (on a subject)
  •     Speak up—raise your voice
  •     Speak up for someone—voice support for a person
  •     Speak volumes—convey lots of information
  •     Speak well of someone—say only positive things about that person
  •     this Speak for itself—requires no explanation

Always use TALK in these fixed expressions:

  •     Money talks—money can get things done
  •     Talk away—talk a great deal
  •     Talk back—answer rudely or disrespectfully
  •     Talk down to someone—be condescending towards a person
  •     Talk shop—talk about your job, using jargon
  •     Talk the talk—say things and make promises to please others
  •     Talk things over—discuss something
  •     Talk tough—speak in a brash or threatening manner
  •     Talk through your hat (or talk nonsense)—say things that make no sense
  •     Talk turkey—speak frankly

Permanent link to this article: