What is the most appropriate verb to use with "talk" in the sense of "an informal address or lecture":

  • "To give a talk"?
  • "To present a talk"?
  • "To deliver a talk"?
  • Another completely different verb or phrase?

Personally I think present a talk sounds seriously wrong. Gibberish, to be honest. But apparently it does occur. Not so often as deliver a talk, which I have no problem with apart from the obvious fact that it's not what we normally say (to wit, give a talk, which is overwhelmingly the standard turn of phrase)...enter image description here

This graph is from Google's NGram Viewer, which indexes all the words in millions of books - including many written hundreds of years ago, as well as publications from recent decades. To give some idea of the actual numbers involved, give a talk appears about 5000 times in books published between 1995 and 2000 whereas present a talk only occurs about 250 times.

  • 2
    Deliver a talk is probably due to deliver a speech. – Cerberus Jun 15 '11 at 3:04
  • @Cerberus: Sounds convincing to me. Always assuming that "is due to..." is a euphemism for "is caused by ignorant bowlderisation of...". But "present a talk" is, well, just daft. :) – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 3:13
  • 1
    But you can also "make a presentation" or "present a paper". So you get 16 choices: make/present/deliver/give a speech/presentation/paper/talk, of which maybe 7 are correct. No wonder these get confounded. – Peter Shor Jun 15 '11 at 5:05
  • @FumbleFingers: Can you please make some explaining comments on your diagram? Where does the data come from? – Rasmus Jun 15 '11 at 7:13
  • @Rasmus: I've added a note about how I created the chart. Including a link to NGram so you can go look for yourself if you want. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '11 at 14:42

The first would be the most informal of the three (though not actually "informal" per se), and probably suits your needs.

"Presenting" a talk is less common than "giving" a talk, and would only be used if there was a presentation associated with the talk.

Lastly, "Delivering" a talk is definitely the more formal than "giving" a talk, probably due to the fact that "delivering" something is always more impersonal than "giving" it.

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