Tell - Say - Talk - Speak

In English, as well as in Russian, there are several verbs which mean sharing information with others. Which verb to choose depends on the situation, intentions of the speaker and other factors. Here we are going to consider the main verbs: SPEAK, TALK, SAY, TELL.

Speak (it is a more formal verb)

It is used when it comes to:

1. the ability to speak (a person is physically able to do this), for example:

You speak very fast I cannot understand anything.

2. The conversation between people (speak to somebody or speak about something/somebody):

Yesterday I spoke to my friend about our company.

3. the ability to speak any language:

They speak French fluently.


Talk. The cases of using the verb talk are very similar to the verb speak. However, talk is more informal.

I am talking to my friend by phone.

Did you talk about your job?


Say - this verb differs from the previous ones. It is used when a person expresses his/her thoughts, shares information in general, not directed at others.

She says that she likes good films.

If there is an object to which the information is intended, then the verb Say is followed by the particle TO:

Fred said to us that he would be a little bit later.


Tell - this verb is similar to say, but it is always followed by an object. But we never use any prepositions after the verb tell.

They told us not to wait for them.

Don’t tell me you are going to do that.

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