Confusing English Verbs – SPEAK, SAY, TELL, TALK – What’s The Difference?

Do these English verbs confuse you? They look similar and sometimes it difficult to know when to use the correct verb while speaking English. In this English lesson with Ceema understand the difference between the verbs SPEAK, SAY, TELL, TALK and learn how to correctly use them in spoken English without any mistakes.

I hope this lesson helps you and you avoid these common errors made while speaking English.

Complete Lesson Transcript : –

Hi this is Ceema, and today I’m gonna teach you something that relates to communication. We’re gonna talk about the words, “speak”, “talk”, “tell” and “say” which is very confusing for people because they don’t know what to use when communicating, but today I’m gonna help you understand the difference between these words. You can’t use these words all the time, for all sentences in the same way, so what is the difference? Let’s talk about the first word which happens to be, “talk”, so when do you use talk? You will use ‘talk’ when you are engaging in a conversation and that conversation can be a formal conversation or it can be an informal conversation, right? When I say formal conversation it obviously means, conversations in the office, at your work obviously, but informal conversations are conversations with your family your friends your loved ones. So let’s see how to use ‘talk’ in an example, “the doctors were talking about the patient’s condition.” Now I’m using the word ‘talking’ because it’s a conversation they’re having, a conversation they’re all sitting together and talking with each other and in this case obviously it happens to be, formal they are in an office environment they are in the hospital, okay? So that’s why we use ‘talk’ or I could also say something like, “talking with your spouse about life issues is a great way to have meaningful conversation”. Now again when I’m saying, ‘talking with your spouse’, I mean it’s a conversation, when you’re talking to your spouse, you are having a one-to-one conversation, you are discussing various issues like, what are we do with the children, how do we, you know how do we take care of our families, all those intimate issues are being discussed and therefore it is a conversation but in this case that happens to be, an informal conversation and that’s how we use ‘talk’ when we are relating it with conversations which could be formal or informal. And just so that you know, I have ensured that there’s a small snapshot of what we’ve learned on this side of the screen, okay? So that’s talk for you, a conversation which could be formal or informal. Now let’s talk about the next word which is, “say”, when is say used? “Say” is used when you want to express three things, “thought”… thought means what I think in my mind, maybe I haven’t really said it, but it’s a thought in my mind. What an “opinion”, opinion means, what I feel, what I feel, it’s just my opinion or a “suggestion”, suggestion meaning I’m telling someone, I’m giving someone advice, okay? So let’s see how we can use each of them, the first is, “he said…” I’m using the words ‘say’ over here that “it might take me two months to lose 10 Kgs.” Now this was probably his thought or his opinion okay, may be not an expert opinion but it was definitely something he thought, something that he thought, I should really do, okay? So he said that it might take me two months to lose 10 kgs, like I can’t say he ‘talked’ that it might be, I can’t use the word ‘talk’ here, can I? Right? So you simply say, he said that it might take me two months to lose weight. Or I could say something like, “my CA said that I should file my tax returns ASAP”, ‘as soon as possible’ now again I use the word ‘said’ why because now I am talking about an opinion or a suggestion you know my CA is a guy who will help me save money on tax, right? So it is his opinion, it is his suggestion that I file my tax returns immediately. Over here again I cannot say that the CA ‘talked’ that I should file my tax returns, well that wouldn’t make sense right, so I again use the word ‘say’ to talk about thoughts or opinions and then we have another expression, we have another sentence, another example sentence where I say, he said that it’s best if I visit my parents, now I’m again using the word ‘said’ and this kind of seems like a suggestion to me because you know he’s suggesting that why don’t you meet your parents, so I will use the word said because again that happens to be an expression of a suggestion, okay? So let me help you understand all of this by again putting that on this side of the screen is a snapshot of what we’ve just learned which is the use of the words, ‘say’ where you are talking about thoughts, opinions and suggestions. Okay we’ll move on to the next word now which is, “tell”. Now, how do we use tell and when do we use tell? We use it when we want to give instructions or information, when you are giving instructions to people that you feel they should follow. Okay so, “you must tell her to be careful with her investments”, ‘you must tell her’, now why do I say, you must ‘tell’ her? Because you are giving information. Probably this information is required right now, because the stock market is very, it’s not doing great, so you have to be very careful and therefore you want to “tell” her, right? Okay so that’s how you used ‘tell’. You can also use another example by saying, “did you tell her about the new software update we received?” This is actually a question mark okay, so it’s a question, ‘did you tell her’, ‘did you tell her’ meaning did you inform her, did you instruct her about the new software information, the software update that we received. Now over here you possibly cannot say you must ‘say’ her, you know a lot of people use new sentences like, ‘I said her…’ no, you told her to do something, you did not say her, you just told her to do something you gave her instructions or information, okay? So again I’m gonna have this snapshot of what we’ve just learned on this side of the screen, so tell just to review is to use it when you’re talking about instructions and information. Okay now let’s go to the next word which is “speak”, when do we use speak? We use it to refer to the ability to speak a language. So language, any language, English, Espanol… anything or conversations. Okay now if you notice in a sentence you can say, “I can speak in English and Spanish quite well” okay now I cannot say I can, I can say in English, that’s wrong English right? Because a lot of people say, you know what I can say in English very well, no, you can speak in English very well, okay? Or when you’re using it as far as conversations go, you can say, “we need to speak with our team about using the new printer carefully”, why do we say ‘speak’ because here again we are referring to conversations, which means we are gonna have a conversation with our team about using the new printer properly or carefully because it’s a new printer and you want to make sure that you don’t have a problem, right? When you’re using it, so you will use the word ‘speak’. Okay so that was all about ‘speak’, so let me put all of this on this side of the screen, so that you get a better perspective. So we’ve understood the difference between the four, right? But now there is one similarity between two words, can you figure it out? Take your time, okay so let me have you understand the similarity between two words out of these four words happens to be with, “talk” and with “speak”. Now you could use both of these quite interchangeably so you could say something like, “the doctors are talking about a patient” or “doctors are speaking about a patient”, why, because we are referring to a conversation that we are having with people, which could be formal or informal. But in the case of “say” or “tell”, well they’re quite different and the difference is very clear, right? So this is the lesson that is gonna help you really understand how to use each of these words differently, because they are different and you have to use them in the right way, okay? So I’ll be back with some more lessons but in the meantime keep talking, keep practicing and keep learning the right way to use them. I’ll be back with some more lessons, until then this is me saying keep practicing.

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