Jen’s English Tip’s – The difference between say, tell and speak



The difference between say, tell and speak


• Ability — if it’s about ability, “talk” is preferred: “cats can’t talk”, “when I’m drunk I lose my ability to talk”. Note that “speak” is allowed but is less popular;

• Languages — use “speak”: “I speak English”;

• Action — covered in answers above; both words can be used; “speak” is mostly about single-direction, while “talk” usually refers a conversation (and is less formal);

• Express information — use “say” or “tell”: “I told her that I love her”. Here, “I love her” is the information being expressed. “Say” can also be used, but it connotates a single-time action. Compare: “I said that the discussion is over and hung up the phone.”

Imperative usually follows the rules above, but due to an extended popularity, here’s a brief:
• Extended time or dialogue — “Talk to me.”

• Long monologue — “Tell me about your problem.”

• Short monologue — “Say something!”

• Requesting a certain attribute of speaking process — “Speak slowly please.”


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Posted by on Oct 12 2015. Filed under English Tips by Jen. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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