I am confused with these two words, speak to and talk to. For example, I can say "I will never speak to a man about this." Can I substitute "speak to" here with "talk to"? Is there any difference? I appreciate any of your suggestion.

  • 1
    As a first approximation they are the same, and one can be substituted for the other. There are some subtle nuances, however, and "talk" is likely the better choice in the above sentence. "Speak" tends to imply talking "at" someone, while "talk" leaves more of an impression of conversation/discussion. But that, as I said, is subtle, and depends a lot on context and tone of voice.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 15:37
  • We can speak to this question, but if we talk to this question, it may be viewed as odd.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 16:34

3 Answers 3


In American English, "speak to" is more formal, to the point of harshness. "I will speak to him" can be code for "I will berate him vigorously." "Talk to" is about conducting a dialog; it implies reasonability and affability.

The negation is a little different.

If you say "never speak", the issue is the content: "Let us never speak of this again."

If you say "never talk", the issue is the conversational partner: "Let us never talk to her again."

  • 1
    I'm not sure about this. A mother might tell her husband "Go talk to your son about his behavior." I think it's mostly about the tone, not the choice of words.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 15:42
  • 3
    Similarly, you give someone 'a good talking to.' rather than 'a good speaking to'.
    – badspell
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 16:09
  • What should I say when I initial a phone call? "May I speak to XXX", or "speak with", or "talk to/with"?
    – Judy
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 21:35

More than grammar , it's a matter of usage.

That aside, "speak" and "talk" are often interchangeable. Nevertheless, "speak" is a tad formal than "talk".

 The President speaks before Congress. 
 I talk to my friends on the phone. 

Formations can take different forms:

When did the baby begin to talk is more idiomatic than when did the baby begin to speak.

  A baby does not give a formal speech. But a baby can begin to engage in a 
  conversation by responding to simple questions like "what is your name?"

In medicine: we may be diagnosed with a disease which impedes our ability to speak.

In daily conversation: we may say we can't talk too long, there are other things we have to do.


 we talked the night away (were up all night talking), but it would be odd to hear 
 that someone spoke the night away! 

Phrasal verbs example: speak up/out, talk up

  "To **speak up**" is to speak louder or to stand up for what you believe in. 
   But "talk up" is completely different. It means to talk about the advantages of 
   something in order to sway opinion in its favor.

Unfortunately, there is no simple or easy rule to follow. However,if you use "with" instead of "to", the message seems softer since "speak/talk with" implies a dialogue.

There are, however, a number of fixed expressions


They're used interchangeably, but remember, speech refers more directly to one person's faculty of speech, specifically, their capability to produce discernible language. Talk comes from tell/tale/tally, which refers more to giving an account of something. So speech is used in situations that involve the technical capacity of producing language; i.e. giving a speech, telling your dog to speak, going to the speech therapist. Talk is used when you're actually relaying information or an account of something; i.e. "the talk", a TED talk, let's talk it out.

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