TEXT. The writer and his mother sat in silence. Question. The writer and his mother sat without ---- (1) speaking (2) talking Which one should be used ? Why ?

  • 1
    Whichever one conveys the "mood" you wish to convey.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:22
  • Define "should".
    – Drew
    Apr 24, 2016 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


I think 'talking' should be used here.

As speak is more formal than talk and the conversation here is between the writer and his mother, so it is informal meeting.

2- Speak usually only focuses on the person who is producing the words:

He spoke about the importance of taking exercise and having a good diet.

Talk focuses on a speaker and at least one listener, and can mean ‘have a conversation’:

I hope I can meet you to talk about my plans for the company.

Check this sight for more information : http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/speak-or-talk

  • 1
    Although my first inclination would be "speaking" in this instance ("without talking" to me would suggest not speaking to each other, while "without speaking" suggests total silence; i.e., having no conversation with anyone), you nevertheless make a compelling argument for your position. +1 for a thoughtful, well documented answer. Apr 24, 2016 at 13:18
  • How is speak more formal than talk? Can you justify this assertion? Apr 24, 2016 at 17:08

If the pair are simply sitting there waiting, and have nothing really to talk about, they're "not talking". If, on the other hand, they're avoiding talking to each other (eg, they're angry with each other), they're "not speaking".


Speak or talk? from English Grammar Today Speak and talk: uses The verbs speak and talk both generally mean ‘say words’, but there are some small differences in how they are used. Speak is more formal than talk.

Compare I need to speak to you.

Formal. It is possible that:

– the speaker does not know you very well.

– this is in a formal setting, such as work.

– what the person has to say is important/serious.

I need to talk to you.

Informal. It is possible that:

– the speaker is your friend.

– the speaker is someone you don’t know very well, but what they have to say is informal.

We usually use speak for more formal presentations and lectures, and talk for more informal ones:

Dr Graham Foster will speak about the history of the region.

Kyle is going to talk us through the benefits of the software and then Liz will talk about the marketing plan.

Check this site for more information : http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/speak-or-talk

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