Say, tell, speak, or talk

Verb Definition and use Example
SAY

 

To

Ø  Utter words to share information

Ø  To express in words

 

Most often used without a personal object.  If PO is used, ‘to’ is necessary.

 

Used with direct and indirect speech.

 

Tina said she might come to class this afternoon.

 

Carlos said, “Hi” to a stranger in the street.

 

I say to my best friend how much I appreciate her.

TELL

 

 

Ø  Communicate information to someone

Ø  To instruct or inform

Ø

After tell we usually say WHO is told (tell someone something).

 

Tell someone TO DO something.

 

Not used before objects.

 

Do not normally use it after tell to refer to a fact.

 

Repeat something to someone.

 

Use with lies, stories, the truth.

 

Used with direct and indirect speech.

 

 

Jenny told her that she should study more.

 

Ilana will tell her mom about the car accident.

 

The actor was told that he needed to cry harder in the scene.

 

I cannot believe that he would tell lies to his wife.

 

NOT

Mary told them “Goodbye.”

 

I will tell you it tomorrow.

 

Peter told a bad word.

SPEAK

 

To / With / About / Of

Ø  Have a conversation

Ø  Communicate, answer or address

Ø  Say something in order to express information or feelings

 

One-way communication.

 

For exchanges in formal or serious situations.

 

Used to refer to languages or knowledge.

 

More emphasis is place on the other person involved in the conversation.

How many different languages can you speak?

 

Everyone spoke about the wonderful performance the next day.

 

Maybe you should speak to your boss about a pay raise.

 

To be in a good relationship, one should speak with their partner openly.

TALK

 

To / With / About

Ø  Speak to give information or express feelings or ideas

Ø  Communicate by spoken words

Ø  Have the power of speech

Ø  Gossip

 

More common word to refer to informal communication and conversational exchanges.

 

More emphasis is placed on the topic of the spoken exchange.

We need to talk about setting a budget for the month.

 

If Wilma talks to me tomorrow, I will tell you.

 

Good parents talk with their children daily.

 

WITH

 

Discussion between two or more participants

TO

 

One-sided conversation

ABOUT

 

General discussion

OF

 

Describe something definite that you know or have experienced

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