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Talk vs. Speak vs. Tell vs. Ask vs. Say

Dear Go Natural English friends,

You dream of speaking perfect English. You talk to your friends and family about it. You tell me that you have many questions, you say it is difficult, and you ask for my help.

I know that it can be difficult to know when to use the words “talk,” “speak,” “tell,” “ask,” and “say.” It is partly a grammar question but mostly a question of usage and what you mean to say.

So in today’s post, I want to show you some examples and give you some ideas on how to use these different words. If you would like to get more help, check out the classes available online!


  • Are you having a problem with a noisy neighbor? I recommend that you talk to him/her.
  • Please do not talk in class when the professor is lecturing.
  • Let’s talk about sports.


  • Do you speak Spanish?
  • Professor Noam Chomsky will speak to students about careers for Linguistics majors.
  • Speak up in class if your teacher encourages participation.


  • Tell the truth.
  • Tell me a story.
  • Did I tell you that I’m going on vacation?
  • Let me tell you something.


  • Can I ask you for a favor?
  • Can I ask your opinion?
  • I want to ask a question.
  • “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”


  • My mother always says, “Believe what people do, not what they say.”
  • What did you say?
  • Can you say that again? (repeat)

OK friends, I hope that this helps. If you have any questions, please ASK!  :-)

Want more information and practice? Check out the back-to-school fall tutoring specials – click here now – save 25% now through Oct.17, 2012.

Have a great week, talk to you soon!


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