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“Speak to” vs. “Speak with”

Well, the question is in the title. I always had the impression that "talk to someone" refers to situations when some information must be conveyed to someone else, while "talk with someone" refers to cases that involve a more complex two-sided interaction. E.g., I "talk to my colleague" to tell him that I'm going for a lunch break (no response is required apart from maybe an acknowledgment), while I go and "talk with my colleague" if I have to discuss something with him in detail. Is this correct, or is there any difference between the two phrases, or is there no difference at all?


5 Answers 5


There's a similar discussion here... "Speak to" vs. "Speak with" . For what it's worth, my perception is that "talk with" and "speak with" are American forms, and "talk to" and "speak to" are British.

  • 1
    That must be it - I live in England now and I mostly hear "talk to", and I was somewhat confused while I watched some US movies that used "talk with" consistently.
    – Tamás
    Commented Aug 16, 2010 at 10:49

In American English, "talk to" and "talk with" are essentially the same, but can carry additional implications depending on context:

"Talk to" is frequently used to start an instruction for obtaining information from a specific person or group, as in this exchange:

[inquiry] "Where can I find Sarah McLeod?"

[response] "Talk to the clerk at the second desk."

"Talk to" can imply a circumstance where the listeners do not have the opportunity or permission to respond.

"Talk to" can be synonymous with "instruct", "lecture" (especially when correcting someone's past behaviour), "console" (verb form), "guide" (verb form), or "teach".

"Talk with" generally implies an exchange of ideas, such as in equal conversation.

"Talk with" can be used euphemistically instead of "talk to" if the speaker wants to imply an equal exchange where there was none.

Some Americans demonstrate a preference for "talk to" when describing what they are currently doing, especially if they are doing it via a medium such as telephone or internet ("I'm talking to Sarah."), but are more selective about the propositional sense "("I'll talk [to|with] Sarah."). Perhaps "talk to" is slightly more intelligible when unceremoniously bellowed down a flight of stairs toward a parent or while trying to be heard over construction noise.

  • +1. To me “talk to” sounds more distant or cold than “talk with”. Also +1 for mentioning the euphemism, like “Boss to Bob: Talk to Ann to apologize. Bob to Boss: I already talked with her, she said it was fine.”
    – mdcq
    Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 0:56

From my knowledge,

"talk to" is for simple talking
"talk with" is for longer discussion

  • 1
    Not in the UK. "Talk to" is usual for both, and "talk with" not much used
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 18:10

I'd ask you to use the following distinction:

talk to = the simple action (as opposed to remaining silent)

talk with = an extended conversation.


If I say "may I talk to Ana?. It means a one way conversation will take place... me talking and Ana listening…but when I say 'may I talk with Ana?. It means there will be a sharing of opinions between me and Ana.

2- Re: Difference between "Talk To" and "Talk with"

Well, I almost always say that I'm talking "to" someone, when in reality, I'm talking "with". For me, to talk "with" someone means that you are both equally engaged in conversation; to talk "to" someone implies that you are talking "at" them--that you occupy the higher ground of the conversation. However, as I said, in common speech, you will usually hear the preposition "to".

3- One expert explains this way: (l) Talk with = two people speak with each other on an equal basis. For example: May I speak/talk with you about a problem I'm having? (2) Talk to = one person does most of the talking. Example: The president will speak to the nation tonight. Example: Oh, you say my son caused some problems? I shall talk to him tonight = I shall give him orders to behave himself. If you said, "I shall speak with him," it might = he and I shall talk so that I can hear his side of the issue

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