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Unit 2: English In A Minute
Give us a minute and we'll give you English

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Session 15

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Speak vs Talk

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? What's the difference between speak and talk? Phil's going to talk us through it. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

Watch the video and complete the activity

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Phil

Are speak and talk different? Often it doesn't matter, but there are some differences.

Speak can refer to the action itself. I speak Spanish really well and I speak Russian badly.

Speak can refer to something more formal than talk. As a teacher, I spoke to my students in lessons and then I talked to my friends afterwards.

Talk suggests that it's a conversation. My friends always listen to me, not all my students did.

There are also some expressions where we use one word rather than the other. Like: speak out or talk rubbish.

The difference is very small and often it doesn't matter which one you use but remember: Teachers and politicians speak to you, friends and family talk to you and you should speak out if you think someone's talking rubbish.

 

Speak vs Talk 

It often doesn't matter whether we use speak or talk, but there are some differences between them.

The action itself
Speak can refer to the action itself.

  • I speak Spanish really well.
  • I speak Russian badly.

Formality
Speak
can refer to something more formal than talk.

  • I spoke to my students about grammar.
  • I talked to my friends over coffee.

Conversation
Talk
suggests that the action is a conversation.

  • My friend and I talked about work.

Set phrases:
There are some expressions that we only use with speak or talk. For example: speak out (say you don't like something) or talk rubbish (say things that aren't true)

  • At the meeting, the workers spoke out about their lack of a pay rise.
  • The politician said the building would be finished soon, but he's talking rubbish.

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